EDFish

Brookings Institution hosts discussion on future of U.S. fisheries

Photo credit: Hamilton Project

Photo credit: Hamilton Project

The fishing industry contributes about $90 billion annually to the U.S. economy, which translates to over one and a half million jobs for American workers.

Sustainably managed fisheries have a higher economic value to fishing dependent communities, than those under unsustainable management. Understanding this fact is of paramount importance to ensuring a sustainable and thriving future for both fishermen and fish in the U.S. and globally.

Our work at EDF Oceans is focused on aligning the economic and environmental incentives for fishermen to ensure a sustainable fishing future and we believe that catch shares are an essential tool to achieving this goal.

I was honored to participate in a panel hosted by the Brookings Institute and the Hamilton Project that featured a thoughtful discussion on how to improve the economic prosperity and long-term sustainability of the U.S. fishing industry. To frame the discussion, the Hamilton Project released an economic overview of the U.S. fishing industry, and panelists reviewed and discussed a new paper by economist Christopher Costello of U.C. Santa Barbara which calls for a getting fishermen the socio-economic data they need before making game-changing decisions about management of their fisheries.

The forum opened with remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin who noted that the Hamilton Institute, an economic policy initiative of the Brookings Institution, had never before focused on a specific industry, but chose to do so because of the importance of natural resources in general, and fishing in particular, to the U.S. economy. Dr. Costello was joined by a commercial and charter boat fisherman and representatives from NGOs, including myself.

As you might expect with such a diverse group, a robust discussion followed.  I expressed EDF’s view that there are tremendous benefits to giving fishermen and other stakeholders more information on the socio-economic benefits of catch shares compared with conventional management.

John Pappalardo, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance noted that having more in-depth analysis at the time the New England catch shares program was under consideration would have been helpful. Steve Tomeny, a charter boat operator out of Louisiana, observed that he and other charter boat captains believe catch shares could offer benefits for their sector, similar to those commercial red snapper fishermen have enjoyed – a belief that could be tested by the analysis the Costello paper would require.  While some expressed concerns about finding resources to fund the proposal—especially during a tough economy—others reiterated that the bolstered economic state of sustainably managed fisheries would offset these costs.

Better access to information and continued discourse between fishermen and regulators will continue to produce workable solutions for managing ocean resources. It was clear that all panelists agreed that more socioeconomic data should be provided to fishermen when they are making decisions about their livelihoods.

As Congress is currently considering reauthorizing the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the nation’s fishing law, this discussion comes at an important time. It was a privilege to share the day with former Secretary Rubin and the distinguished panel. It was even better to hear a frank and cordial exchange about the tremendous gains the United States has made in rebuilding fish stocks and creating sustainable fishery management and how we can improve even further.

While there is still work to be done, we applaud the solid foundation for sustainable management that fishermen, fishery managers and other stakeholders have built in recent years. The resounding message from the forum is that Congress needs to continue to carry this progress forward so that the tough sacrifices fishermen have made for conservation will result in a sustainable and economically thriving future for fishing communities.

 

 

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Why growing up in Sweden gave me hope for the future of our oceans

AndreaA friend of mine recently asked me, ‘Why do you work on fisheries?’

I began to talk about how fisheries is the ultimate tragedy of the commons problem, an economic term coined by Garett Hardin in the 1960s which explains how individuals act in their individual best interest rather than do what is best long term for the group. I talked about how governments are challenged by managing shared natural resources and how this is even more complex with ocean fisheries since we do not see the fish disappear beneath the surface.

That long and “technical” answer may be part of the reason, but it doesn’t fully explain why I do what I do. The real answer is much simpler. I love our oceans. I have spent all my summers on an island on the Swedish west coast called Koster, where the water is clear and full of life. And I grew up in Stockholm – a city surrounded by water. I took my diving license at age 16, as soon as I was allowed, even though this meant training and doing my final dives in February on the east coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea, with sub-zero temperatures and visibility of less than a meter.

When I finished my master’s degree I knew I wanted to work for an NGO, either on climate or fisheries issues. Someone I told this to questioned my choice of fisheries and asked, ‘isn’t that a little bit like rearranging the furniture on Titanic? Does it really matter unless we combat dangerous climate change?’ I chose to ignore their pessimism. We are working to fight climate change, but while we do that we cannot disregard how important healthy oceans are for our well-being, in terms of providing a stable food supply to feed a growing population, but also because thriving oceans are more resilient to a changing climate. I applied for a position with EDF because of its pragmatic and solutions-based approach. This was nearly a year ago and I could not be happier with that choice today.

Creating thriving oceans begins with working to fully understand the problems faced by all stakeholders. This is one of many reasons why I´m proud of the way EDF collaborates with industry. I also have a real respect for fishermen, who spend their lives working on the water. Swedish fishermen are world leaders today when it comes to selective gear and sustainable fishing practices and they are determined to go even further. The key species in Swedish fisheries are northern prawn, Nephrops, cod, herring and sprat. All fishermen are using a bycatch reductions tool called a sorting grid in the prawn and Nephrop fishery. Moreover, current projects are trying to even further decrease bycatch through experimenting with mesh sizes and shapes; and lighter trawls have been developed to minimise the ecosystem impact on sensitive marine environments as well as to make fishing activities more energy efficient.

These are smaller parts of a larger movement across the European Union. EDF is working with fishermen and fisheries managers in Sweden to implement the European Union’s new and ambitious common fisheries policy. It aims to restore depleted stocks in EU waters and end the wasteful practice of throwing valuable catch overboard. The obligation to land all catches is being gradually introduced across EU waters from January 2015. This is a huge challenge for the demersal fleet in the North Sea in particular because of its diversity of species and quotas, which does not necessarily reflect the actual catch composition. However, I am optimistic about what we do in Sweden because we have initiated a dialogue with industry leaders on how to meet the stringent requirements of the new law and on how their identified goals can be realised in a new management system.

I believe that thriving fishing industries can co-exist with healthy fish stocks. I hope Sweden can inspire other fishing nations worldwide with its sustainable and innovative fisheries management.

 

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Smart fishery management can make fishing safer

Front Cover PhotoAmerican fishermen are 23 times more likely than the average American worker to die on the job.

That’s a shockingly high number, and it might not surprise you if you’ve watched Deadliest Catch. Amazingly, it’s better than it used to be, and a policy that EDF has championed for a decade has played a significant role.

The on-the-job death rate comes from the Department of Labor’s annual review of workplace fatalities. Each year, the DOL analyzes all on-the-job fatalities (in actual deaths and deaths per 100,000 jobs), and for years, fishermen have held the first or second highest fatality rate. What this year’s numbers don’t show, however, is how some fisheries are making the industry a lot less deadly.

Fishermen face risks from treacherous weather conditions and heavy equipment. In some fisheries, however, the rules that govern when and where they fish actually encourage risky decisions. When fishermen are subjected to rules that limit when they can fish, they find themselves in a race against the clock, the competition, and the weather.

In many fisheries around the world, managers have implemented catch share programs that allot a share of the annual catch to each fisherman. This vastly improves safety. With an annual allotment in place, fishermen can fish whenever they want, instead of playing beat the clock and fishing only on certain days of the year when they are told to fish, regardless of whether rough seas and storms may threaten their lives. Fisheries in the United States and British Columbia that switched to catch shares experienced, on average, a near-tripling in safety, as measured by injuries, search and rescue missions, vessels lost, and lives lost.

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, search and rescue missions in Alaska’s halibut and sablefish fishery plummeted from 33 in 1994 (the last pre-catch share year) to 6 in 2012.

The Alaska Bering Sea Crab fishery – the focus of Discovery’s Deadliest Catch – has seen fatalities drop since switching to catch shares. Incidentally, safety concerns and not just sustainability issues played a large role in the decision to switch to catch share management, which has extended the crabbing seasons. In the five years before catch shares took effect (2005), eight crabbers perished. In the eight years since, one crabber has died on the job. Certainly, that is one fatality too many, but it is a clear sign of improvement.

Changes in management are not a panacea for improving fishermen safety. There are other measures that safety advocates are urging managers to adopt, including mandatory personal flotation devices, stronger requirements for on-board safety equipment, and better fishing safety trainings.

But smart management tools like catch shares are making fishing safer. They bring predictability and a less frenzied pace to this inherently dangerous profession, and play an important role in making sure fishermen are not forced into a dangerous race against the clock.

The ocean will always be a dangerous place to work, and fishermen will always brave the waves in pursuit of their livelihoods. But rules should make things safer, not more dangerous. And where they are being employed, catch shares are getting the job done.

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From ‘Avoid’ to ‘Enjoy’: West Coast Groundfish Completes Sustainability Sweep

© Monterey Bay Aquarium

© Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, considered by many to be the ultimate arbiter of sustainability for the U.S. seafood market, has released five new reports on the West Coast groundfish fishery. In these new assessments they concluded that almost 40 types of rockfish, sole and other fish species – representing virtually all groundfish caught on the West Coast – are now considered sustainable seafood choices.

This announcement comes on the heels of another sustainability milestone for this fishery. Just two months ago, a large portion of the same fishery was also certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

This was not always the case. The fishery was declared a federal disaster in 2000. After years of overfishing and declining productivity, the fishing industry began working with Environmental Defense Fund experts and federal regulators to design a new management system that better aligned the interests of fishermen and fish populations.

In 2011 the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) instituted a ‘catch share’ program. At the same time, this new management plan established a system of 100% catch monitoring, which ensured that every fish that came over the rail was accounted for.

This combination spurred an innovation boom within the trawl fishery, which is reducing its footprint, staying out of sensitive areas, testing new gear, and exchanging bycatch information in real time to avoid overfished and depleted species. As a result, approximately 70% of West Coast flounder and sole, and 60% of rockfish now qualify as a Seafood Watch ‘Best Choice’. Specifically:

  • All trawl-caught rockfish assessed have been upgraded to either “Good Alternative” or “Best Choice”
  • Dover sole, English sole and Pacific sanddabs have been upgraded to “Best Choice”
  • Spiny dogfish, a species of shark, has been upgraded to “Best Choice”
  • Pacific grenadier has been upgraded from “Avoid” to “Good Alternative”

Seafood Watch called it, “the most dramatic turnaround to date, and reflects significant improvements in federal fishery management to restore these economically important fisheries in California, Oregon and Washington”.

In the words of Brad Pettinger, lifelong fisherman and director of the Oregon Trawl Commission, “Fifteen years ago they wrote the obituary for this fishery. Ten years ago we started working on a rationalized management plan, and three years ago we put it in place. That was the watershed moment, and now we’re demonstrating that we can be good stewards of an amazing public resource. We could not be happier or more proud.”

So once again, kudos to the hardworking fishermen and fishery managers that committed to this process from day one. This is just one more step in an amazing journey, and one that EDF is proud to be a part of. We hope and expect that this new show of support from Seafood Watch translates into better market opportunities for West Coast groundfish, and a rightful place within the world of sustainable seafood.

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H-E-B Grocery Making Sure Texans Enjoy Sustainable Seafood

By Tim Fitzgerald and Heather Paffe

storefront

Source: HEB.com

Today EDF proudly announced its new sustainable seafood partnership with Texas retail giant H-E-B, a cornerstone of communities across Texas for more than 100 years. One of the nation's largest independently owned food retailers with annual sales exceeding $20 billion, they operate more than 350 H-E-B and Central Market stores across the state.

The new partnership builds on H-E-B’s longstanding dedication to healthy oceans, healthy seafood and healthy Gulf fishing communities, and positions EDF as its primary sustainability advisor for all fresh, frozen and prepared fish offerings (work will begin on shelf stable seafood later this year). H-E-B’s updated sourcing policy outlines nine ways that they are committed to providing the freshest, safest, and most sustainable seafood – including:

  • Preferential sourcing from wild fisheries that are well-managed by catch shares, and a commitment to improve the sustainability of additional fisheries through selected fishery improvement projects;
  • A strengthened commitment to source farmed seafood from aquaculture operations that are either certified or soon to be certified to industry-leading standards of production;
  • A directed effort to support and improve the fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico, especially snapper, grouper and wild shrimp;
  • Setting an ultimate goal of full traceability for every seafood product that it carries; and
  • Posting a full species inventory online, along with regularly identifying priority seafood items still in need of sustainability improvements.

EDF and H-E-B began working together back in 2012 when H-E-B became the first major retailer in the Gulf to offer the GulfWild® brand of red snapper. This innovative sustainability and traceability program was created by Gulf fishermen after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in an effort to reassure the public that their fish was safe, responsibly-caught and trackable back to individual fishing vessels. The product can now be found in 150 stores and is evidence of H-E-B’s ongoing commitment to Gulf fishermen and coastal communities.

The great news is that, although it may seem like this announcement only affects Texans, H-E-B’s expanded commitment will help ensure more fisheries and fish farms are managed well. That translates into more fresh, sustainable seafood for generations of all Americans to enjoy.

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Investing in the transition to thriving EU waters: A visionary new framework

By: Kent Strauss & Erik Lindebo

In partnership with the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit (ISU), and in collaboration with the 50in10 initiative, EDF recently released a report entitled Towards Investment in Sustainable Fisheries: A Framework for Financing the Transition. It outlines a framework for developing fisheries transition projects which achieve sustainability by attracting and leveraging global finance. Intended to inform and inspire fishermen, project developers and other oceans stakeholders, this report looks to empower fishing communities by meeting the financial needs of transitioning to sustainable fisheries.

This is a very timely contribution considering that the fisheries sector and European Union (EU) Member States are currently in the process of implementing the newly reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The many management challenges, particularly those related to environmental objectives are evident. However, with the right incentives in place, the transition towards more sustainable resource use in EU waters can offer promising opportunities.

Currently there is a heartening movement occurring towards policies that create great landscapes for investment, supported, for instance, by the report’s emphasis on the importance of strongly enforced science based catch limits. Under the new CFP, conservation objectives such as Maximum Sustainable Yields (MSY) and discards reduction are well enshrined. The regional development of multi-annual management plans will incorporate these objectives and give the fisheries sector the opportunity to plan its business operations for more than one year at a time.

By incorporating tenure and rights-based solutions we can also achieve greater support for long term investments in proper science-based management of the resource. This will require systems that are developed in a fair and transparent manner, ensuring that stakeholder issues are addressed early on in the process towards achieving durable solutions.

Towards Investment in Sustainable Fisheries… was presented during a meeting hosted by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, during which oceans leaders and investors from around the world convened to explore options for financing the transition to a sustainable blue economy.

In a speech at the ISU event Fred Krupp, President of EDF, spoke of ‘putting new tools in place to spur public and private investment in fishing communities’. This sentiment was echoed by HRH speaking of the ‘many examples around the world that the transition towards sustainability can deliver a wide range of economic, social and ecological benefits’. The tone of the event was confirmed with Commissioner Damanaki’s insistence on moving ‘away from traditional grants and subsidies towards new alternatives such as revolving funds, guarantees, or venture capital funds’.

Evidently, there is a growing recognition across the world that sustainable fisheries need to be both ecologically and economically sound in order to support the people that depend on them for food and livelihoods, and garner interest from investors looking for social, environmental and financial returns.

Most funding that goes toward towards reinvigorating the oceans at the moment comes from public and philanthropic investors. While they are vital sources of funding for global fisheries transition, the amount available from these alone simply cannot achieve the scale and pace of reform required. Leveraging multiple sources of capital may offer a solution, with special consideration of the ability of financially motivated investors to rapidly scale and deploy large amounts of funding.

Project developers should therefore view and develop their initiatives with financial sustainability in mind, appealing to different types of investors. Likewise, investors should keep their eyes open for opportunities in the up and coming area of the fisheries sector. Nowhere are these opportunities more apparent than in EU waters under the new CFP.

 

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CFF Advances Sustainability Vision of Local Morro Bay Community

[Hear more about CFF from fishermen]

Yesterday, the New York Times featured a story about the new Morro Bay Community Quota Fund. With the help of a loan from EDF’s California Fisheries Fund (CFF), the Quota Fund was able to acquire fishing quota and five fishing permits from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), which the Quota Fund will lease to local fishermen to support a sustainable local fishing industry. Here at CFF we are excited to be involved in California’s first community purchase of fishing quota, contributing to the groundfish fishery’s continued environmental stewardship.

Several years ago, TNC bought these fishing permits and boats from fishermen who were interested in leaving the trawling business. TNC then leased trawl permits to fishermen who agreed to use non-trawl or low-impact trawl gear to catch the same fish with less habitat impact. This effort combined with EDF’s role in helping to get catch shares implemented for the rest of the West Coast groundfish trawl fleet has aided the fishery in bouncing back. In fact, the fishery was recently certified as sustainable and recognized by the Marine Stewardship Council as “the most diverse, complex fishery ever to enter assessment against MSC standard anywhere in the world.”

Andrea Lueker, Executive Director at the Morro Bay Community Quota Fund shared her thoughts about the transaction:

“We look forward to helping local fishermen continue their sustainable fishing businesses and we especially aim to help young local fishermen get started. We appreciate everything that the California Fisheries Fund and The Nature Conservancy have done to help us launch the Quota Fund.”

The mission of the CFF has always been to support fishermen’s goals of being stewards of the resource as they transition to or continue sustainable fishing practices. Many other organizations and individuals have reached out to us for help in achieving similar goals. In response to these requests, we’ve outlined the journey of the CFF through a video series and brief paper. In sharing our story, we hope to continue a rich dialogue about sustainable fishery management and investing in fishery conservation.

Learn more about Morro Bay’s fishing story: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/07/us/creating-a-safe-harbor-for-a-village-heritage.html?_r=0

 

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New Video Series: California Fisheries Fund Helps Finance Sustainable Fishing

When we launched the California Fisheries Fund in 2008, it was unique and untested: a public-private partnership with the mission to make capital available to a growing sustainable commercial fishing industry.  Since then, we’ve provided more than $2.5 million in loans to fishermen, fish buyers, processors and distributors enabling them to transition to or continue more sustainable fishing business practices. Many people and institutions have reached out to ask questions about our experience and story. Some organizations are considering establishing similar funds and they’ve asked for advice on how to get started.

In response to those and a growing number of requests, we’ve developed several resources that describe our experience establishing and managing the CFF:

A brief paper on the CFF,Investing in sustainable fishing” that highlights its history, challenges and successes

A three-part CFF video series:

  1. California Fisheries Fund: Investing in Sustainable Fishing: CFF borrowers share their stories about how they used loans to improve the sustainability and profitability of their fishing businesses.
  2. Reflecting on Our Growth: Vision to Implementation: Founders of the CFF discuss how the fund started, how it reduced risk and highlighted the opportunities for growth in the fisheries finance world.
  3.  Looking Ahead: The West Coast fishing industry has seen great benefits as a result of its transformational fishery management approaches and the California Fisheries Fund's support of sustainable fishing practices. Continued research, innovation, funding and faith in the fishing industry will help fishermen, fishing organizations and the industry as a whole succeed.

As the interest in financing fisheries continues to bud and its dialogue becomes richer, we will continue to share our story in hopes of inspiring others to invest in fishery conservation.

 

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