Author Archives: Amanda Leland

Senate Approves Help for Fisheries Impacted by BP Oil Spill

Although the oil spill in the Gulf continues to worsen, there’s a bit of good news for Gulf fishermen and fishing-related businesses.  The Senate last night approved an amendment by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) that would devote $26 million to support fishermen and to improve fisheries science because of the spill. 

The House still has to vote on the measure, so more critical funding could be added before its finalized and sent to the President. Earlier this week EDF signed a letter to Congress and the President with the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance and the Gulf Fishermen’s Association that advocated for at least $100 million in funding for direct assistance to adversely affected commercial and recreational fishermen and fishing communities, to improve fisheries science, and to make fisheries more resilient to harm caused by human activities.  Because of the size of this disaster, we see this as just a good start, and we are working to expand the scope and increase the amount over the long-term. 

 The amendment includes $15 million for fisheries disaster assistance, $10 million for stock assessments, and $1 million for a study on the impacts from the spill on the Gulf ecosystem.  Here’s the specific language.

 (1) FISHERIES DISASTER RELIEF.–For an additional amount, in addition to other amounts provided in this Act for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, $15,000,000 to be available to provide fisheries disaster relief under section 312 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1861a) related to a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that resulted from the Deepwater Horizon oil discharge.

 (2) EXPANDED STOCK ASSESSMENT OF FISHERIES.–For an additional amount, in addition to other amounts provided in this Act for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, $10,000,000 to conduct an expanded stock assessment of the fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico. Such expanded stock assessment shall include an assessment of the commercial and recreational catch and biological sampling, observer programs, data management and processing activities, the conduct of assessments, and follow-up evaluations of such fisheries.

 (3) ECOSYSTEM SERVICES IMPACTS STUDY.–For an additional amount, in addition to other amounts provided for the Department of Commerce, $1,000,000 to be available for the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study of the long-term ecosystem service impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil discharge. Such study shall assess long-term costs to the public of lost water filtration, hunting, and fishing (commercial and recreational), and other ecosystem services associated with the Gulf of Mexico.

 IN GENERAL.–Of the amounts appropriated or made available under Division B, Title I of Public Law 111-117 that remain unobligated as of the date of the enactment of this Act under Procurement, Acquisition, and Construction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, $26,000,000 of the amounts appropriated are hereby rescinded.

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Congressional Hearing Presents Narrow View of Catch Shares

U.S. House Hearing Room at the April 22 hearing on catch shares and communities

U.S. House hearing room at the April 22, 2010 hearing on catch shares and communities.

A hearing today in the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife mostly overlooked evidence of the benefits of catch shares and instead zeroed in on fears.  Out of the eight witnesses who testified, just one was a fisherman, Bob Dooley, who has actually fished in a catch share program. 

Reflecting on his personal experience fishing in catch share-managed fisheries, Bob Dooley, a fisherman from California, told the committee that “an investment in catch shares … will provide huge benefits to fishing families and coastal communities.”  Other fishermen supportive of catch shares submitted written comments such as Glen Brooks, a grouper fisherman from Florida and president of the Gulf Fishermen's Association.  A number of pro-catch share fishermen also came to the hearing with bold t-shirts that read “Fisherman for Catch Shares.” 

The mostly negative tenor of the hearing didn't come as a surprise.  Fishermen and lawmakers have good reasons to be frustrated these days.  Overfishing has continued in many of the nation’s most valuable fisheries despite years of ever-restrictive measures that have put thousands of fishermen out of business.  Today more than 60 federal fish stocks are overfished or have overfishing occurring.  The result is declining catches and shrinking revenues for fishermen.  

Contrast that picture with catch shares, which can lead to greater prosperity, sustainability and flexibility for fishermen.  When the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico faced severe restrictions because of overfishing, fishery managers worked with commercial fishermen to develop a catch share program, which has increased dock-side prices, decreased bycatch and helped end overfishing (Steele 2008).  Red snapper populations are now rebounding, meaning more fish for everyone, including recreational fishermen. 

Fishermen supportive catch shares wear t-shirts voicing their support at the April 22, 2010 Natural Resources Committee hearing on catch shares and communities: "Fishermen for Catch Shares".

Fishermen wear t-shirts voicing their support for catch shares at the April 22, 2010 Natural Resources Committee hearing on catch shares and communities: "Fishermen for Catch Shares".

There was some talk today about concern for fishing communities and the tools available with catch shares – and not available under conventional management – like permit banks, quota set-asides like adaptive management programs, and community development quotas.  These tools guarantee that the values of communities will be respected whether that means providing a way for new fishermen to enter the fishery or making sure that jobs associated with the fishery remain local. 

Many of the witnesses complained about the impacts on their businesses and communities of shortened fishing seasons under traditional management systems, yet failed to recognize that shifting to catch shares would allow them to fish throughout the year.

This hearing should have focused more on how to design catch shares that best reflect the needs and values of fishermen, fishing communities and the nation.  That’s a big enough job and where the discussion about catch shares ought to be.

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Catch Shares Not for Private Anglers – Part of EDF’s Comments on NOAA’s Draft Catch Share Policy

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans Program - National Policy Director

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans Program - National Policy Director

EDF recently submitted comments to NOAA on its draft catch share policy.  In the letter we address how catch shares are better than fishery closures; how they improve fishing jobs and restore the resource; and how they are locally designed to meet specific biological, economic and social goals. We also address the importance of stakeholder input in the design of a catch share program.

We've been asked recently what EDF's position is regarding recreational fishing and catch shares.  Here's what we say in our letter to NOAA:

There are two distinct segments of the recreational fishing community: charter boats and private individual anglers. Current management is failing both segments, as seasons dwindle, bag limits shrink, size limits increase and fishing opportunities are decreased. The recreational fishing community deserves better than that.

Since charter boat captains maintain a fishery-dependent business similar to commercial fishermen, catch shares management should be considered for that segment. However, for private anglers catch shares are not appropriate and a new approach is needed. We should support new ideas that can help get fishermen back on the water and restore the resource.

Read EDF's full letter of comments to NOAA.

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Fishermen Express Concerns in Washington Today; Catch Shares Can Help

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans Program - National Policy Director

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans Program - National Policy Director

Fishermen are here in Washington, D.C. this week to express their concerns with fisheries today—and they have good reason to be frustrated. Even after decades of regulations aimed at restoring fisheries big problems still exist.

Today over 60 federal fish stocks are overfished or have overfishing occurring, resulting in declining catches and shrinking revenues.  We must rebuild these fish populations to restore vibrant fishing communities, because economic recovery requires biological recovery.  But, the key is picking the path that makes common sense.  

Until recently, fishery managers didn’t see a good choice.  Controlling overfishing has usually meant shrinking fishing seasons or even implementing closures, approaches that have serious economic impacts. For example, in the New England groundfish fishery significant reductions in resource abundance, allowable catches, and the number of active vessels reduced total fishing days by about half between 1995 to 2008 (Green, 2009; Thunberg, NEFSC, pers. comm.).  Commercial and recreational fishermen in the Southeast U.S. are just beginning to feel the cost of a closure on red snapper.  If better management options don’t surface soon, these impacts are expected to continue for the foreseeable future and grow as other regional fisheries close down too.

In contrast, catch share management can deliver increased prosperity, sustainability, and flexibility.  Instead of pushing fishermen off the water to restore the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico, fishery managers worked with commercial fishermen to develop a catch share program, which has increased dock-side prices, decreased bycatch and helped end overfishing (Steele 2008).  Red snapper populations are now rebounding, meaning more fish for everyone, including recreational fishermen.  

In the commercial Alaska halibut fishery, catch share management has extended the fishing season from less than a week to more than eight months each year, allowing fishermen to have more full-time work as well as flexibility in deciding when to fish (NOAA Fisheries 2009).  These and other catch share programs stand out as the few bright spots in fisheries today. 

Transitioning to catch shares now is a necessary and worthwhile investment, because it can solve the overfishing problem, while boosting profits and improving jobs for fishermen.  In addition, over time catch shares can reduce and stabilize the overall federal investment needed to support fishing jobs: catch shares shift some management costs to fishermen once they are economically-viable again.  I believe there are solutions for recreational fishing too—solutions that help keep fishermen on the water through better scientific data and tools to make sure that the amount of fish caught stays within limits.

Fishermen continue to suffer from the collapse of fish stocks around the country.  Putting off rebuilding is not the answer as it only continues the downward spiral that has been putting people out of work for decades.  Instead Congress should invest in a durable solution that restores economic, cultural, and biological prosperity to our nation’s fishing communities.

Works Cited

Green, A. (2009, May 30). Move to redefine New England Fishing. The New York Times, pp. A18.

Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Snapper Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic; Red Snapper Closure. Federal Register Vol. 74 Issue. 232. 12/02/2009.

NOAA Fisheries Service. (2009). Catch Share Spotlight No. 1: Alaska IFQ Halibut and Sablefish Program.

Steele, Phil. (2008, November 17). An Overview of the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper and Grouper/Tilefish IFQ Programs. Southeast Regional Office (SERO) National Marine Fisheries Services.

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NOAA’s New National Catch Shares Program: An investment that makes (dollars and) cents

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans Program - National Policy Director

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans National Policy Director.

Yesterday NOAA released its budget request to Congress for Fiscal Year 2011.  While the National Marine Fisheries Service budget request was decreased by 1.5%, it included a key feature: the creation of a new National Catch Shares Program, which would provide significant resources—over $50M—to those fisheries wanting to transition to catch shares. 

This federal investment comes at the right time because under conventional management fishermen struggle to make ends meet and fish stocks continue to decline.  Well-designed catch shares, on the other hand, can end overfishing while increasing fishermen’s profitability and wages and decreasing government costs.  NOAA’s announcement is a welcome shift in fisheries policy that will quickly accrue benefits to fishermen, fish populations, and the federal budget’s bottom line.
 
Fishermen are increasingly embracing catch shares because they boost profitability, wages, and safety. Catch shares enhance fishery economics with optimized catch limits (as overfished stocks recover and science improves), increased efficiency of fishing operations, and higher dock-side prices.  On average, fisheries in North America have realized an 80% increase in revenues five years after catch share implementation. In contrast, for many prized species the alternative to catch shares is closures, which will push fishermen off the water and have a devastating economic impact on coastal communities. 

As fisheries grow economically, catch shares can transition management costs to fishermen, reducing and stabilizing the overall federal investment needed to support fishing jobs.  For example, fishermen are required to recover 100% of program costs in the Alaska crab catch share.  That catch share has increased the overall value of the fishery because populations are recovering (so catch limits are increasing), and dock-side values have increased.  The economic increase has resulted in a surplus for management costs in 2009.
 
At the same time, as fisheries stabilize under catch shares, the federal government’s costs for disaster relief could substantially be reduced, which has averaged some $70 million annually over the past decade (not including salmon).
NOAA should be applauded for charting a new course and making an investment today in the solution that will help fishermen, fish populations, and the federal treasury recover. 
 
Now we need Congress to support NOAA’s budget request.

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EDF Applauds NOAA's New Catch Share Policy and Introduces the Catch Shares Action Toolkit

Amanda Leland, Oceans Program - National Policy DirectorA policy released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) charts an historic new course for the nation's fish stocks, giving hope for the recovery of struggling fishing communities and depleted fish resources. With the new policy, NOAA is seeking to correct decades of failed management that has resulted in economically-depressed, unsafe, and unsustainable fisheries around the country.

The policy promotes greater use of catch shares, and we at EDF applaud NOAA for promoting this innovative fisheries management approach proven to improve fishermen's lives and livelihoods and restore fish populations. NOAA's policy builds upon the significant work of fishermen, fishing communities, scientists, fishery managers, and conservationists to design and implement catch shares in fisheries around the country.

Catch shares work for fishermen and fish populations because they include science-based annual catch limits, accountability measures to ensure compliance with those limits, and effective enforcement. At the same time, catch shares give fishermen greater flexibility for how to run their businesses, which improves economic performance.

NOAA's new policy does not mandate catch shares for fisheries but rather makes important changes in strategy and operations, providing incentives and support for fishery managers who pursue catch shares. In particular, the draft policy:

  • Promotes the consideration and adoption, where appropriate, of catch share programs in federal fisheries.
  • Removes technical and administrative impediments to catch shares.
  • Provides technical and other support to those regional fishery management councils that choose to pursue catch shares.
  • Enhances outreach, education and assistance to stakeholders.
  • Promotes the development of technical guidance on specific program design elements.
  • Supports adaptive management through new research and performance monitoring of catch share programs over time.

The policy has been released in draft form but will take effect immediately. NOAA will take public comments for the next 120 days.

Today, as NOAA announces their new policy, EDF introduces the Catch Shares Action Toolkit to provide a resource for supporters of catch shares and encourage them to take action by telling NOAA and others that catch shares fishery management is the right policy to protect and restore the public's ocean fishery resources, and increase profitability, wages, and safety for fishermen.

The toolkit features videos of fishermen sharing their stories about the failures of the current management system and why they support catch shares programs. The toolkit also encourages catch share supporters to engage in the dialog about catch shares through commenting online to NOAA and news articles, spreading the word about the benefit of catch shares to their friends, and submitting their own stories.

Today over 50 federally-managed stocks are overfished or experiencing overfishing. Under current management, meeting a Congressionally-mandated deadline to end overfishing by 2011 will mean ever-shorter fishing seasons and long-term closures for many prized species which will have a devastating impact on coastal communities. Catch shares allow continued fishing even while fish stocks recover.

We encourage all catch share supporters and those who want to learn more about this solution for our struggling fisheries to visit our new Catch Shares Action Toolkit.

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