Photo: Kaia Joye Moyer
By: Kaia Joye Moyer, Masters Student at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management
It is 5am. The sun is just rising, but Hermes Arandas, a fisher from Totolan, Dauis, Bohol in the Philippines, is anything but just waking up. Today he and six fellow fishers are pulling their banca, a long slender outrigger canoe into the boat landing area. The men left the harbor at 4 pm the previous day and have been out fishing all night. Hermes tells me that he remembers fishing with his father. Back then, the fish were not far from shore, but today they can’t be found there. In order to continue to support his family, Hermes must fish farther and longer because catch is decreasing and fish are getting smaller.
Unfortunately Hermes is not alone in his story. More than 90% of the fishermen around the world are small-scale fishers like Hermes, mostly living in developing nations. And while these fishers provide half of the global fish catch, they are also particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they rely on fish for both their livelihood and food source
It is stories like Hermes’ that brought us to the Philippines.
Small-scale coastal fisheries are central to the health of the ocean, livelihood, poverty alleviation and food security for millions around the world, but today many of them are severely threatened by chronic overfishing.
As the population increases and demand for seafood continues to rise, fishers harvest more, resulting in declining fish populations. Open access fishing, in which anyone can fish anywhere, as much as they can, is at the root of the overfishing problem.
As more and more people harvest the fish, no one is held responsible for making sure the fish don’t run out. Instead, fishers try to catch as much fish as possible, as quickly as possible, because they believe that if they don’t, someone else will get there first.
That’s why EDF is working with small-scale fishers and communities to implement fisheries management programs that rewards sustainable fishing practices. Read More
Atlantic Cod; Photo Credit: NOAA
In yesterday’s New York Times, Oceana’s Gib Brogan raised serious concerns in an Opinion piece, “A Knockout Blow for American Fish Stocks,” about both the future facing New England cod and the New England Management Council’s stewardship of the region’s fisheries resource. We share many of Gib’s concerns.
Fisheries management is too often presented as a choice between protecting the environment, on the one hand, and the economic interests of fishermen and coastal communities on the other. But we know from our experience in United States that the two are inextricably linked. With many fisheries around the country rebounding, fishermen are among the primary beneficiaries as catch limits increase. Conversely in New England, the collapse of cod presents a significant challenge to coastal fishing businesses; and the recent initiatives of the council on habitat and monitoring are dangerous precisely because they further jeopardize the fishery’s long-term prospects. Read More
A Caribbean reef shark encountered off the coast of Cuba. Credit: Noel Lopez Fernandez
Sharks are recognized by scientists, resource managers and the tourism ministry in Cuba for their critical role in marine ecosystems, as a tourist attraction for divers and as a protein source when caught by fishers. Leaders from various Cuban agencies, looking at how to balance these needs and protect sharks, are now for the first time creating a national plan for shark conservation. This is important not just for Cuba but for the entire Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region where many shark populations travel throughout waters shared by many nations.
Earlier this year I sat in a hotel discoteca in Trinidad, Cuba that was converted into a teaching space for daytime use. Here I watched fishers jump at the chance to correctly identify shark species and prove their skills in front of their peers. This was the second shark and ray identification workshop organized by Cuba’s Ministry of Food (MINAL) and EDF where fishers, boat captains and port employees came together from across the country to learn about Cuba’s efforts to study and conserve sharks.
Because of ongoing concerns over declining shark populations in the region, the Cuban government is making shark conservation a national priority through the development of its first-ever National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Sharks and Rays (NPOA-Sharks). They hope to complete it by the end of the year. Read More
Photo: Tom Jamieson
By: David Stevens
David Stevens comes from a long line of St Ives fishermen and is part of his family run business. Their vessel, The Crystal Sea is a 20 meter trawler working out of Newlyn, which goes to sea 3-5 days depending on the weather, so as to maximise the quality and freshness of their catch. David skippers alongside his brother, Alec, with a crew of three others and their father working ashore with the nets and supplies.
I have been fishing now for nearly 25 years and in all of that time, the decisions that really matter, about how we fish and the amount we catch have been largely kept out of industry’s hands. The decisions made in Brussels by the European Union have had a huge impact on the way we run our businesses. We are often left wondering how seemingly straightforward policies have become so complicated and how, when introduced at the industry level, these laws just don’t work. I am hopeful, however, that fishermen can now lead the necessary management solutions to forge a prosperous and sustainable future. Read More
Photo credit: Noëlle Yochum
At this week’s meeting in Spokane, WA, the Pacific Fishery Management Council made the good news official. Canary rockfish – a long-lived species declared overfished in 2000, has been “rebuilt.”
At the same meeting, Petrale sole, one of the marquee species on the West Coast, was also declared rebuilt. “Rebuilt” status simply means that the population of the fish has increased to a level above what is needed to sustain a healthy population. This target is set by the Council and aims to support maximum sustainable yield in the fishery.
Under the initial rebuilding plan, populations of the bright orange and pink Canary rockfish were not expected to be rebuilt until 2057, so this rapid progress – attributed to a combination of favorable ocean conditions and strict conservation measures enacted under the West Coast’s catch share fishery management system – comes as particularly welcome news.
Canary are one of the so-called “choke species” on the West Coast, meaning that assigned catch quotas of these fish are so small that fishermen have been effectively prevented from accessing large swaths of fishing grounds where plentiful target species co-mingle with Canary.
In adapting to those low quotas and avoiding Canary rockfish in the first four years of the catch share program, fishermen have been instrumental in this major conservation win. When quotas for Canary are adjusted to reflect the six-fold increase in their population, fishermen will be less constrained in fishing those areas, and larger quantities of certified-sustainable fish will hit the docks in Washington, Oregon and California. EDF will continue working with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Pacific Fishery Management Council to see that those quotas are adjusted as soon as possible.