West Coast Fisherman Brad Pettinger Honored at White House as ‘Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood’

brad-pettingerOn October 7, in a first-of-its-kind event honoring Champions of Change for Sustainable Seafood, our friend Brad Pettinger was honored for helping to turn around a fishery that was declared a federal disaster in 2000. Brad serves as director of the Oregon Trawl Commission and was a driving force behind the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) landmark 2014 certification of the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery as well managed and sustainable.

Brad’s recognition as a Champion of Change is an acknowledgement of the tough times that he and many other West Coast fishermen endured as their fishery failed and they struggled to bring it back. Brad often recalls when it hit rock bottom, and his wife suggested one day that maybe it was time to sell their boat. “Honey, I said to her, there’s nobody to sell the boat to!” remembers Brad. “You see, nobody wanted to buy the boats, because they couldn’t see a future for the fishery. It was a rough, rough time for everyone involved.”

From that point forward Brad put his shoulder to the wheel, attending every meeting of the Pacific Fishery Management Council for years, helping to hammer out the framework for a catch share fishery management program. That program – which launched in January of 2011 – allocated specific annual quota amounts to trawl fisherman based on their catch history, eliminated the “race for fish” culture of the groundfish fleet, dramatically reduced bycatch, and ushered in a new era of accountability and cooperation among fishermen and regulators. Read More »

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Here’s why the world should invest in a sustainable fishing future

photo credit: pengrin™ origami fish - made by June via photopin (license)

photo credit: pengrin™ origami fish – made by June via photopin (license)

Investing in the ocean is essential to ensuring life thrives on our planet. Three billion people depend on seafood for their survival, and hundreds of millions depend on the oceans for their livelihood. With climate impacts threatening this critical resource, now is the time to bring investment capital to accelerating the transition to sustainable fishing.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. urged worldwide consensus on the need for large-scale private financial investments to cover the costs of combatting climate change. He points out that “there is a global abundance of private capital” that should be tapped to develop clean technologies rather than relying exclusively on the relatively small supply of capital available from governments. Mr. Paulson also asserts that governments can lead the way to a low-carbon future by creating policies and tools to enable the flow of capital into critical projects.

The same is true for sustainable fishing. We already have the tools to increase the amount of fish in the sea, food on the plate and financial return for fishing communities in as little as ten years. EDF, together with the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit and 50in10, found that fish and people thrive, and investment risk is lower, when harvests are at sustainable levels, fishers have secure access rights and there is robust monitoring and enforcement of fishing activity. These enabling conditions make it possible for investors to focus on investments in seafood supply chains, infrastructure, and technology. Read More »

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New process helps managers make informed decisions, even in data poor fisheries

The coast of Galicia, Spain where octopus, goose barnacles, and many other species are harvested by small scale fishermen and women.

The coast of Galicia, Spain where octopus, goose barnacles, and many other species are harvested by small-scale fishermen and women.

Fishery managers, scientists and NGOs from all over Spain gathered in Madrid on a warm spring morning at a workshop convened by EDF and World Wildlife Fund Spain, eager to learn about how to collect, analyze, and use data to manage fishing mortality so that they could achieve their goal of good yields sustained over many years and even generations.

Like many people struggling to improve fishery outcomes around the world, the participants in this workshop felt like they couldn’t use the complex fishery assessment models they had learned in school because the data they actually had in hand were quite limited – and the models required rich streams of data.  The vast majority – probably over 80% – of the world’s fisheries appear to be in this situation.  The participants also felt like they had to make important management decisions with limited expertise by wading through a mass of technical papers on a variety of topics, none giving clear and specific guidance for the specific fisheries they care so much about.

Over the course of three intense days, participants worked together to synthesize guidance from the literature and from other fisheries on how to monitor fisheries, choose appropriate analytical methods and use the results to manage fisheries.  Together, we worked out how this guidance could be applied to specific fisheries.

We were thrilled to read the evaluations afterward.  Participants got a tremendous amount out of the workshop, but many of them said that it was too short (even though most of us were exhausted by the long days of thinking hard and practicing various skills).  They wanted to dig deeper and build on the skills that they had learned.  It would have been great to have a large body of international expertise on monitoring, data analysis and how to adjust fishing mortality to achieve fishery management goals in one convenient place that could be tailored to the fisheries that they care most about.

FishPath: Guiding managers in complex, data poor fisheries

Fortunately, a working group of international stock assessment experts convened by the Science for Nature and People program foresaw this need and developed a process called FishPath that does exactly that.  FishPath  elicits key information about a specific fishery and then uses that information to identify monitoring, assessment and harvest control options that will likely be appropriate for that fishery.  Read More »

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Laying foundations for the future of fishing

Credit: John Rae

Credit: John Rae

Cast your mind forward – 10, 15, 50 years. What do you see? The world around us is changing: resource needs are transforming alongside a booming global population. Technology is evolving exponentially, informing how we respond to daily life. Our planet’s climate and the delicate balance of our oceans are under threat.

With over 3 billion people in this changing world relying on oceans for sustenance, where do fish, and fishing, fit into this future?

The world’s oceans have never been higher up the political agenda. Three major international events on ocean governance took place in the last month: the second UN Preparatory Committee on a legally binding instrument for the high seas; the IUCN global congress; and the star-spangled Our Ocean Conference, addressed by President Obama, COP21 President Ségolène Royal, and Leonardo DiCaprio (to name a few). Meanwhile, in London, HRH The Prince of Wales recently convened a meeting – through his International Sustainability Unit (ISU) – to ‘take stock’ of the global transition to sustainable fisheries, and scan the horizon for emerging challenges and opportunities. (Read the full meeting report here).


Fisheries and the future

A keynote speaker at the ISU event projected a global population of 18 billion, and a human life expectancy of 300 years (just around the corner – think your grandchildren, or their children). Another speaker forecast a 60 million ton shortage in seafood products in comparison to demand, within a generation. In a world where billions (often in the most food-insecure nations) rely on protein from fish and other seafood, this vastly increased pressure on resources paints a bleak picture for global fisheries and food security. But we see a brighter future where we can rebuild global fisheries for more fish, more food and more prosperous fishing communities. Read More »

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Can the Gulf States Afford to Manage Red Snapper under H.R. 3094?

red snapper fishing

Photo Credit: GulfWild

In recent years, the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery has featured both a tremendous recovery and ongoing controversy. Through the stakeholder-driven process outlined by the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (appointed by Governors from all of the Gulf States) implemented a successful reform of the commercial sector of the red snapper fishery. One of the results has been a near tripling in the fishing quotas for both the recreational and commercial sectors in a matter of years. Despite this dramatic quota increase, federal recreational fishing seasons have shortened. The Council is currently considering proposals to reform and manage the recreational sector to maximize access.

At the same time, some resource users have sought federal legislation exempting the fishery from the very system that helped the red snapper population rebound. Specifically, H.R. 3094 proposes to transfer management for Gulf of Mexico red snapper to a new authority made up of only the directors of the Gulf state fish and wildlife agencies (who already maintain a vote on the current fishery management council). We oppose this approach because it could result in overfishing and make decision-making much less transparent, among other concerns. The bill passed the House Natural Resources Committee in June despite bipartisan concerns that it would undermine the conservation provisions of the MSA, and only after it was modified to prohibit any federal funds from being used by the new management authority. As a result, the Gulf States would have to find the resources to fund the extra work.

How much would it cost? In early July, Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) estimated what it would cost the state to conduct the activities involved in managing the federal red snapper fishery: Read More »

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The time is now: Solutions for lasting change in Upper Gulf of California

Photo: Carlos Aguilera

Photo: Carlos Aguilera

We are deeply concerned about the future of the vaquita marina, a small porpoise endemic to Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California.  Long on the brink of extinction, the vaquita is facing an additional threat due to rampant poaching of an endangered fish – the totoaba – whose swim bladder is prized in Asian cuisine, and whose future is also imperiled. The situation is now dire with scientists estimating that fewer than 60 vaquita may now exist, escalating the urgency for action. Not only are the futures of vaquita and totoaba at stake, but also the future of thousands of legal fishermen whose livelihoods are uncertain as the government proposes management changes to address the threats to vaquita.

In July, President Peña Nieto and President Obama called for a permanent ban on gillnets in the Upper Gulf region where vaquita are found, the development of alternative gear to ensure that legal fishing in the Upper Gulf does not interact with vaquita, and bilateral coordination on enforcement to eliminate illegal trafficking of totoaba. The Mexican government has made initial strides, and this week the Mexican Senate Fisheries Committee convened Upper Gulf stakeholders to provide a platform for discussion of the critical issues at hand.

We commend both governments for understanding the urgency and importance of these issues, and for announcing efforts focused on fisheries gear improvements. However, these actions alone are not enough. What’s most important is to end the illegal poaching of totoaba. As long as poaching continues, vaquita continue to risk death as a result of entanglement in totoaba nets and further, the already depleted totoaba population will continue to decline. Read More »

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