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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Fishermen lead the way in discarding old habits

Photo: Laurence Hartwell

Photo: Laurence Hartwell

By: Dr. Erik Lindebo, Senior Consultant, EDF Oceans Europe

For coastal communities across Europe, fishing is both a way of life and a business. It’s an activity rich with tradition, spanning generations within families – but to be passed down from father to son, businesses need to be strong: fishing must stay profitable, and sustainable. Facing a changing policy landscape can challenge fishing businesses of all sizes, and the introduction of a ‘Landing Obligation’ (which requires fishermen to land and account for all of their catch rather than discarding unwanted fish) by the Common Fisheries Policy is certainly one of the biggest policy challenges the industry has had to adapt to.

Whilst many industry members are still reeling at the implications of landing 100% of catch – and worried about their bottom line in a ‘discard free’ future – a dedicated and growing core of active fishermen are seeking new solutions to implementing the Landing Obligation (LO). Their vision is of fishing businesses that waste little, deliver profits and remain sustainable in the long-term. But how can this be achieved? Read More »

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Gear Workshop Highlights Innovators in West Coast Fishery

IMG_1389-1 New

 

“The best way to get something done is to tell a fisherman it can’t be done.”

– Bob Dooley, veteran fisherman and industry leader

With support from a Saltonstall-Kennedy grant and the Packard Foundation, EDF’s Pacific team joined with an all-star Steering Committee this month to convene a Gear Modification Workshop in Newport, Oregon. More than 70 fishermen from the West Coast and Alaska, along with scientists, net manufacturers, fishery managers, electronics experts, NGO representatives and others came together for two very enjoyable days of intensive information sharing.

The West Coast groundfish trawl fishery is a laboratory of gear innovation these days because the catch share management system requires fishermen to account for every fish caught. Having operated under catch share systems for many years, Alaska fishermen and researchers brought their experiences to bear. Since unwanted or undersized fish count against a fisherman’s overall quota, the incentive to “fish clean” is much higher than in less-accountable fisheries. Fishermen are deploying underwater cameras and working with net manufacturers to design nets that fish more selectively, reduce bottom impact and save on fuel costs.  Likewise, Alaska fishermen and researchers have long been leaders in gear innovation, and they brought their perspectives and expertise to share with their West Coast counterparts.

Read More »

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Crowdsourcing better data on small-scale fisheries

Photo credit: Jason Houston

Photo credit: Jason Houston

Many of the world’s fish are caught in small-scale fisheries that lack data about the health of fish populations, giving managers very limited information to base management decisions on. In turn, most of these fisheries appear to be under-performing with respect to conservation, the amount of food they can produce, the amount of money they can generate, and the quality of the livelihoods they can support. There is a perception that these fisheries cannot be assessed without large amounts of data. Because of this perception, many fisheries remain unassessed, ineffectively managed or not managed at all leading to under performance or even collapse.

Fortunately, there are alternatives: fishermen and women, community members, managers and scientists are collaborating to bridge the data gap for these important fishing communities; increasing knowledge and resources for effective fishery assessment and management. While these collaborations have started to fill in the gaps, we still need input from fishery managers and practitioners for a complete picture of the data.

In collaboration with small-scale fisheries around the world, we are beginning to collect information on the pathway and tools employed in actions of science-based fishery co-management in small-scale, data-limited contexts. Read More »

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Saving Sharks by Reducing Bycatch

Caribbean Reef Sharks. Photo: Noel Lopez-Fernandez

Caribbean Reef Sharks. Photo: Noel Lopez-Fernandez

This week, sharks make their annual summer migration to the Discovery Channel for Shark Week. It’s a great time to learn about some of the advances in shark research happening every day. In just the time since Shark Week 2015, we learned new things about where we can find the world’s largest concentration of sharks, how great white sharks migrate, how sharks use their photon conductive noses to hunt fish, and how catsharks grow brighter the deeper they swim. We’re also discovering new species to add to the growing list of hundreds of different sharks every couple of weeks.

Yet, with all these new findings, we still have a lot to learn about these keystones to our ocean ecosystems. Off the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, a large number of shark species swim in and out of U.S. waters. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) manages these species of sharks—including many known to be highly susceptible to overexploitation such as great whites, whale sharks, and bigeye threshers. Read More »

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