EDFish

A better way to fish: How to give anglers more choices, more value

New research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America finds that current management of marine recreational fishing in the U.S. could be leaving over a billion dollars per year in potential economic value on the table.

Many recreational fisheries are struggling with outdated management that relies on season, size, and bag limits to control catch of recreational fish. These policies promote a “race to fish” with catch often exceeding sustainable limits, resulting in even tighter regulations and fishing seasons closed for much of the year. These regulations are intended to help achieve a fishery’s biological goals, but experience shows they fail to deliver and ultimately impose significant economic costs. This is true in commercial and recreational fishing alike. In recreational fishing, economic values are squandered because season closures limit choice for anglers and exclude many from the fishing experience. Read More »

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What do Cuban and Belizean fishers have in common? More than meets the eye.

Cuba and Belize are connected by more than ocean currents. They share critical ecosystems like mangroves and coral reefs, and both countries have made major strides in fisheries management and coral reef conservation and are currently working to renew and strengthen their fisheries laws and policies. They also share challenges facing their fisheries—including managing complex fisheries that catch dozens of species all together—rather than targeting just one or two.

I was excited to join partners from both countries at a recent intensive four day Fisheries Exchange where they learned from each other and discussed new ways to collaborate on solutions to shared challenges, including different management strategies for the ecosystem overall and for important species like lobster, conch, and many species of finfish.

The Exchange included learning both in the classroom, and on the water—with the goal of showcasing how diverse partnerships working together improves science and compliance, involves and educates more stakeholders, creates opportunities for community development and leads to better managed fisheries and protected areas that benefit users for the long term.

We know from our work with fishing communities around the world that often the best way to solve shared challenges is to connect groups of likeminded fisheries stakeholders to share experiences and solutions. Read More »

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Are plastic eating bacteria the solution to ocean pollution? Science shows it’s not that simple

Recent reporting on the discovery and enhancement of plastic-dissolving enzymes in bacteria made me stop and think about what this might mean for the plastic pollution problem that is plaguing the oceans, including the world’s coral reefs.

While this development is interesting, and draws necessary focus to the immense problem of plastic pollution in the ocean, it is premature to guess whether these kinds of enzymes might provide an effective “silver bullet” for treating plastics floating in the five great gyres of the sea.

There is so much more we need to understand about the complex relationships between plastics and marine ecosystems before we can take draconian action. In other words, it’s too soon to start spraying the ocean with so-called plastic-eating bacteria. Read More »

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The Fisheries White Paper, and Beyond

The UK Fisheries White Paper has finally landed. This hugely anticipated document provides a blueprint for future fisheries management in the UK as it forges the country’s own path after Brexit.  The paper sets out aspirations for achieving a ‘gold standard’ for UK fisheries management – an area which the paper acknowledges is of ‘totemic importance’.

A fresh start is a rare thing in fisheries management, and there’s plenty to indicate that the UK is ambitious in making the most of re-defining its approach to fisheries science and international relationships when it comes to our seas. We welcome innovative approaches to managing quota, such as the Government’s planned quota reserve, which will pool new quota potentially resulting from Brexit negotiations. This shows Government are switched on to the power of quota-based incentives to support best practice in sustainable fishing (as described in my previous blog on quota).  Concerns remain, however that there is still an imbalance between large and small scale operators and that Government should do more to make quota available to smaller, low impact vessels. Read More »

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In Sinaloa, Mexico fishermen are rewriting their legacy

A year ago, Fidel Insunza was not very optimistic about his future in fishing. With more than 30 years on the water, he has seen prosperous times come and go in Altata-Ensenada del Pabellon, a coastal lagoon system in Sinaloa, Mexico. Back in the “good days,” as he calls them, his income allowed him to buy a brand new pick-up truck or take his whole family on vacation to participate in Mazatlan’s famous Carnival. “Those were the days,” he recalls with nostalgia. Today, his income has reduced to a third of what it used to be. But he is not ready to give up on fishing just yet. “This is my life, the heart of my community, and I would choose to be a fisherman once more if I was born again. The only difference is that I would do it more responsibly,” he says. Read More »

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The remarkable recovery of U.S. fisheries continues

Credit: John Rae

At a time when there is significant concern about the erosion of environmental protections, a new report card from the National Marine Fisheries Service confirms that one of the most important conservation success stories of our time remains on track. The turnaround of U.S. fisheries is a remarkable bipartisan success story. This week’s annual Status of U.S. Fisheries report documents how a recovery kick-started during George W. Bush’s time in office, then accelerated under President Obama, held pace during the Trump administration’s first year.

Getting fishery management right is incredibly complex, as illustrated by a history of failure in the United States that spanned decades. Those failures too often deprived saltwater anglers of abundant target stocks, removed local catch from restaurant menus and grocery stores, and created hardship for coastal communities. Yet it is increasingly clear that the United States has now built many of the laws, regulations and institutions needed to meet this complex challenge. If we stay the course, the dividends of our hard-won gains will only grow. Read More »

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