EDFish

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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New report outlines causes of ocean decline and proposal for recovery

A new report by an independent global organization lays out an eight-point plan to reverse ocean decline and advance recovery of the high seas.

The Global Ocean Commission (GOC), an independent organization of prominent leaders from around the globe formed to develop feasible solutions for key challenges facing the high seas, yesterday issued its final report, “From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean.” It outlines five drivers of ocean decline and an eight-part proposal to recover the high seas, an area of our oceans outside the jurisdiction of individual countries.

EDF applauds the commission for bringing high-level international attention to the important role oceans play in sustaining life on the planet, and we are pleased to see the optimism and solution-focus of the report.  The commission’s call to action must be heeded; recovery of the ocean is both possible and imperative to sustaining life on earth.

The GOC recognized that overfishing has been one of the primary drivers of ocean decline. Its recovery plan includes calls for reforming governance and management to address overfishing as well as eliminating harmful subsidies that often lead to too many fishermen chasing too few fish.

As the GOC points out, there is significant environmental and economic upside potential when fisheries are managed properly.  Both science and practical experience tell us that there are solutions that can be adopted to eliminate overfishing while empowering fishermen to be stewards of the resource they use. These solutions, such as secure access to a share of the global catch, coupled with science based limits on catch levels, can align economic and environmental incentives so that fishermen are motivated to fish more sustainably.

Subsidies that work against profitable and sustainable fisheries need to be ended, but the path to getting there isn’t always easy. Fishermen often depend on government support, and that support is often most needed when fish populations are collapsing. Governments can re-direct their funding to work with fishermen to develop solutions that will boost economic and ecological recovery rather than perpetuate collapse.

The EU’s new Common Fisheries Policy is a good example to follow. The policy and accompanying funding legislation, includes stronger sustainability requirements and redirects harmful subsidies to the improvement of fisheries management.  At last night’s event to celebrate the release of the GOC report, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, received a hearty round of applause for these reform efforts that she successfully led.

There is much work to do to ensure that the recommendations of the GOC report lead to real action by governments, businesses and NGOs around the world.  While the GOC has identified the high seas as the focus of their efforts, we hope that further cooperation by government, business and civil society can also address the management problems within countries’ own waters, where the majority of fish are caught.

By implementing the GOC’s advice and following suit to reform management in fishing nations’ waters, the world can in the near future enjoy thriving oceans that provide more fish in the water, more food on the plate and more prosperous communities.

 

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EDF Partner In Cuba Visits US for "Our Oceans" Conference (Part 2)

Fabian_Diving2

Dr. Fabián Pina Amargós is a first-rate marine scientist from Cuba, who has worked closely with EDF’s Oceans program for many years. Fabián has been a scientist with Cuba’s Center for Coastal Ecosystems Research for twenty years and was recently named director of the center.

Welcome back for Part 2 of our intern Shannon Switzer’s interview with Dr. Fabián Pina Amargós, as they discuss the marine scientist’s opinion on the effectiveness of MPA’s and ecotourism as conservation tools as well as his hopes for Cuba as a nation. Read the first part of the interview here.

SLS: Some people are skeptical that MPAs are effective in sustaining fisheries while protecting marine life. What have your studies shown you about the effectiveness of MPAs?

FPA: I think that of course, the controversial part is because nature is very variable. Sometimes you can have the results or the positive impacts of a management tool in a shorter time and sometimes it takes longer, which is dependent, for example, on the species you are trying to recover. So a species that has a short life cycle would have an impact of a no-take area faster, but if we are thinking tarpon, or goliath grouper or other species that live longer, you need to wait a longer time [to see the results].

But generally speaking, and especially where I am dealing in the Gardens, which is relevant for Cuba but also for other tropical places with similar ecosystems, we measured the results of the effect of the marine reserve. We found that after ten years of the declaration [of the MPA] the number of fish increased, the size of the fish are bigger and they are more abundant inside of the reserve. Also, they are not shy and are friendlier and allow you to get closer, so you can enjoy them more when you dive. But also, because the number has increased dramatically, we carried out an experiment and tested the spill-over effect, which is when the number of fish increases until it’s full inside, and they need to move outside. It’s not a random movement, it’s basically a density-dependent kind of movement, cause it’s crowded inside the protected area, and then they just spill over the boundaries.

Then the fishery grounds benefit from that, and you can fish outside. We’ve proved that [with our research], but now fishermen are saying most of the fish they are catching now are coming from the reserve. So now the reserves are gaining support by, not all of the fishermen, but many of them. At the beginning the vast majority of them were opposed to the reserve, and it’s a normal reaction of human behavior—you are preventing me from using a fishing ground that I’ve been using forever and my father and my grandfather and my grand grandfather were fishing on—but they realize now that this is a good tool.

SLS: Along the same lines, part of MPA management often involves tourism based on recreational and sport fishing. Do you think these activities should continue to be allowed in protected areas, despite some studies saying that mishandling can sometimes lead to as high as a forty percent mortality rate?

FPA: I think so. What’s happening typically is the mortality is a lot lower for recreational fishers, especially if you target tropical places with shallow water areas called flats, like we have in Cuba. These are good fora kind of fly fishing that targets bonefish, tarpon, permit and snook. Basically, you use a very small hook and you need to tease the fish that the thing close to his mouth is real bait—like a real shrimp or a crab or small fish—and then as soon as they bite, you need to hook them, because the fish are not stupid. They feel that it’s something sharp, there is no meat in that, and they just spit that out of their mouth. So you need to hook them almost immediately, and if you hook it in the mouth and handle it properly—keep the fish in the water in a horizontal position while unhooking and taking pictures with it—you can get as close as zero percent mortality.

For sure the mortality is less than if you use a net and catch two tons of bonefish. It’s very easy to catch two tons of bonefish, because the medium sized ones gather in schools of several hundred individuals, so you can get 5 or 6 tons of bonefish in two minutes [with a net]. Probably you will need like a year or more for hooking a few hundred bonefish.

So I’d say it’s viable also because people are willing to pay a lot. Americans, Europeans, people from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, almost everywhere, South Africa, all those countries that visit the Gardens are good for catching and releasing bonefish. And they pay a lot of money, they pay air tickets, hotels everywhere on their way to the Gardens which benefit our economy and people, and also they tip the guides. The tips are very high, so that money is coming to the coastal communities and having a positive impact on families.

So yes, it is more profitable with less impact. We have tagged a bonefish and caught it again just two weeks later. So in two weeks they are happy to bite again, even with not only hooking them but also putting the tag in the back. So I think it’s viable, but of course it is dependent on the fishery.

All the time it is very important to inform people through the media that nature is very case by case, and there are not general recipes for everything. So even in tropical areas to temperate areas similar to one another, there’s differences that you must know about and take into account for managing the resources, and that’s why it’s important to do the research but also to inform people that every place is different and you need to know what is going on in every place to make the best decisions.

SLS: You mentioned that the money from tourism ends up in the hands of the locals and benefits the surrounding community. That is great to hear. Tell me more.

FPA: In Cuba we have been good at gathering the revenues of the country and splitting it quite evenly in the population. So even in the situation of Cuba with limited resources and the embargo and general world situation, we keep the health care, social security and education in very high level related to other countries with similar or even higher income. We have been very good with that.

So even the money that is generated by tourism is well-used in the country, so in general it benefits the entire country, but especially this kind of tourism that involves people from the coastal communities. The issue is that typically the people from the coastal communities, I think almost everywhere, but especially in developing countries, they are not highly educated people, so sometimes it’s hard for them to get the positions like in a hotel kind of environment. But these guys are good for marine things- diving and fly fishing- it’s impossible for any one of us to compete with these guys on marine related activities. Read More »

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