Author Archives: EDF Oceans

Smart fishery management can make fishing safer

Front Cover PhotoAmerican fishermen are 23 times more likely than the average American worker to die on the job.

That’s a shockingly high number, and it might not surprise you if you’ve watched Deadliest Catch. Amazingly, it’s better than it used to be, and a policy that EDF has championed for a decade has played a significant role.

The on-the-job death rate comes from the Department of Labor’s annual review of workplace fatalities. Each year, the DOL analyzes all on-the-job fatalities (in actual deaths and deaths per 100,000 jobs), and for years, fishermen have held the first or second highest fatality rate. What this year’s numbers don’t show, however, is how some fisheries are making the industry a lot less deadly.

Fishermen face risks from treacherous weather conditions and heavy equipment. In some fisheries, however, the rules that govern when and where they fish actually encourage risky decisions. When fishermen are subjected to rules that limit when they can fish, they find themselves in a race against the clock, the competition, and the weather.

In many fisheries around the world, managers have implemented catch share programs that allot a share of the annual catch to each fisherman. This vastly improves safety. With an annual allotment in place, fishermen can fish whenever they want, instead of playing beat the clock and fishing only on certain days of the year when they are told to fish, regardless of whether rough seas and storms may threaten their lives. Fisheries in the United States and British Columbia that switched to catch shares experienced, on average, a near-tripling in safety, as measured by injuries, search and rescue missions, vessels lost, and lives lost.

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, search and rescue missions in Alaska’s halibut and sablefish fishery plummeted from 33 in 1994 (the last pre-catch share year) to 6 in 2012.

The Alaska Bering Sea Crab fishery – the focus of Discovery’s Deadliest Catch – has seen fatalities drop since switching to catch shares. Incidentally, safety concerns and not just sustainability issues played a large role in the decision to switch to catch share management, which has extended the crabbing seasons. In the five years before catch shares took effect (2005), eight crabbers perished. In the eight years since, one crabber has died on the job. Certainly, that is one fatality too many, but it is a clear sign of improvement.

Changes in management are not a panacea for improving fishermen safety. There are other measures that safety advocates are urging managers to adopt, including mandatory personal flotation devices, stronger requirements for on-board safety equipment, and better fishing safety trainings.

But smart management tools like catch shares are making fishing safer. They bring predictability and a less frenzied pace to this inherently dangerous profession, and play an important role in making sure fishermen are not forced into a dangerous race against the clock.

The ocean will always be a dangerous place to work, and fishermen will always brave the waves in pursuit of their livelihoods. But rules should make things safer, not more dangerous. And where they are being employed, catch shares are getting the job done.

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H-E-B Grocery Making Sure Texans Enjoy Sustainable Seafood

By Tim Fitzgerald and Heather Paffe

storefront

Source: HEB.com

Today EDF proudly announced its new sustainable seafood partnership with Texas retail giant H-E-B, a cornerstone of communities across Texas for more than 100 years. One of the nation's largest independently owned food retailers with annual sales exceeding $20 billion, they operate more than 350 H-E-B and Central Market stores across the state.

The new partnership builds on H-E-B’s longstanding dedication to healthy oceans, healthy seafood and healthy Gulf fishing communities, and positions EDF as its primary sustainability advisor for all fresh, frozen and prepared fish offerings (work will begin on shelf stable seafood later this year). H-E-B’s updated sourcing policy outlines nine ways that they are committed to providing the freshest, safest, and most sustainable seafood – including:

  • Preferential sourcing from wild fisheries that are well-managed by catch shares, and a commitment to improve the sustainability of additional fisheries through selected fishery improvement projects;
  • A strengthened commitment to source farmed seafood from aquaculture operations that are either certified or soon to be certified to industry-leading standards of production;
  • A directed effort to support and improve the fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico, especially snapper, grouper and wild shrimp;
  • Setting an ultimate goal of full traceability for every seafood product that it carries; and
  • Posting a full species inventory online, along with regularly identifying priority seafood items still in need of sustainability improvements.

EDF and H-E-B began working together back in 2012 when H-E-B became the first major retailer in the Gulf to offer the GulfWild® brand of red snapper. This innovative sustainability and traceability program was created by Gulf fishermen after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in an effort to reassure the public that their fish was safe, responsibly-caught and trackable back to individual fishing vessels. The product can now be found in 150 stores and is evidence of H-E-B’s ongoing commitment to Gulf fishermen and coastal communities.

The great news is that, although it may seem like this announcement only affects Texans, H-E-B’s expanded commitment will help ensure more fisheries and fish farms are managed well. That translates into more fresh, sustainable seafood for generations of all Americans to enjoy.

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Investing in the transition to thriving EU waters: A visionary new framework

By: Kent Strauss & Erik Lindebo

In partnership with the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit (ISU), and in collaboration with the 50in10 initiative, EDF recently released a report entitled Towards Investment in Sustainable Fisheries: A Framework for Financing the Transition. It outlines a framework for developing fisheries transition projects which achieve sustainability by attracting and leveraging global finance. Intended to inform and inspire fishermen, project developers and other oceans stakeholders, this report looks to empower fishing communities by meeting the financial needs of transitioning to sustainable fisheries.

This is a very timely contribution considering that the fisheries sector and European Union (EU) Member States are currently in the process of implementing the newly reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The many management challenges, particularly those related to environmental objectives are evident. However, with the right incentives in place, the transition towards more sustainable resource use in EU waters can offer promising opportunities.

Currently there is a heartening movement occurring towards policies that create great landscapes for investment, supported, for instance, by the report’s emphasis on the importance of strongly enforced science based catch limits. Under the new CFP, conservation objectives such as Maximum Sustainable Yields (MSY) and discards reduction are well enshrined. The regional development of multi-annual management plans will incorporate these objectives and give the fisheries sector the opportunity to plan its business operations for more than one year at a time.

By incorporating tenure and rights-based solutions we can also achieve greater support for long term investments in proper science-based management of the resource. This will require systems that are developed in a fair and transparent manner, ensuring that stakeholder issues are addressed early on in the process towards achieving durable solutions.

Towards Investment in Sustainable Fisheries… was presented during a meeting hosted by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, during which oceans leaders and investors from around the world convened to explore options for financing the transition to a sustainable blue economy.

In a speech at the ISU event Fred Krupp, President of EDF, spoke of ‘putting new tools in place to spur public and private investment in fishing communities’. This sentiment was echoed by HRH speaking of the ‘many examples around the world that the transition towards sustainability can deliver a wide range of economic, social and ecological benefits’. The tone of the event was confirmed with Commissioner Damanaki’s insistence on moving ‘away from traditional grants and subsidies towards new alternatives such as revolving funds, guarantees, or venture capital funds’.

Evidently, there is a growing recognition across the world that sustainable fisheries need to be both ecologically and economically sound in order to support the people that depend on them for food and livelihoods, and garner interest from investors looking for social, environmental and financial returns.

Most funding that goes toward towards reinvigorating the oceans at the moment comes from public and philanthropic investors. While they are vital sources of funding for global fisheries transition, the amount available from these alone simply cannot achieve the scale and pace of reform required. Leveraging multiple sources of capital may offer a solution, with special consideration of the ability of financially motivated investors to rapidly scale and deploy large amounts of funding.

Project developers should therefore view and develop their initiatives with financial sustainability in mind, appealing to different types of investors. Likewise, investors should keep their eyes open for opportunities in the up and coming area of the fisheries sector. Nowhere are these opportunities more apparent than in EU waters under the new CFP.

 

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FAO adopts sustainable small-scale fisheries guidelines

Photo credit: Jason Houston

Photo credit: Jason Houston

Small-scale fisheries provide a host of social and economic benefits to local communities.  They contribute about half of the global catch; supplying food for local, national and global markets.  They are responsible for about ninety percent of fishing employment. They provide income, contribute to food security and nutrition, alleviate poverty, and often support a way of life strongly anchored in local culture and community.

But small-scale and artisanal fisheries face many challenges today including depleted fish stocks; pollution; encroachment from development; climate change, and sea level rise. Many small-scale fishing communities are marginalized, with low levels of access to political power, education and other resources.

To combat these challenges, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) collaborated with governments, Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders to develop a set of ‘Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication’ (SSF).  Today at the biennial meeting of the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries in Rome, delegates adopted the SSF Guidelines by consensus.

The SSF Guidelines offer guidance on how to deliver on the promise of sustainable small-scale fisheries in a way that is ecosystem-friendly, participatory and sensitive to cultural context. The Guidelines give strong new impetus to the importance of inclusiveness in setting goals and designing management systems that can work for communities, with an emphasis on the key role that women play in sustainable fishing communities.

In brief, the Guidelines stress that:

  • Small-scale fishing communities need to have secure tenure rights, which equitably distribute benefits from responsibly managed fisheries.
  • These tenure rights are balanced by responsibilities for long term conservation and management of fishery resources, and small-scale actors must fish at levels and with practices that protect the resource over the long term.
  • States must include small-scale fishing communities in the design, planning and implementation of management systems to sustain fisheries and communities – and in particular must ensure that women are equitably included in all aspects of the process.
  • The post-harvest and trade sectors are just as critical to the security of SSF communities as fishing itself, and stakeholders from these sectors (particularly women, who are often more active in post-harvest than harvest roles) must be included in the design, planning and implementation of these parts of the value chain.
  • Special attention to social and economic development may be needed to ensure that often-marginalized SSF communities can have secure livelihoods and enjoy their human rights.
  • Governments need to put in place policies and plans to take into consideration the potential for significant risks to SSF communities from disasters and climate change.
  • All parties need to respect and make use of traditional knowledge, in addition to collecting and disseminating scientific research, in support of SSF; communicating the data in an efficient and transparent way is an essential component of sustainable management.
  • Small-scale fisheries also operate in near-shore environments of great ecological value, and thus high-quality fisheries management systems in those places also yield tangible environmental benefits.

The FAO developed the SSF Guidelines through a very broad and inclusive process of outreach and listening; the result was a document that truly reflects the concerns and aspirations of the people and communities who depend on these fisheries. EDF commends all involved for adoption of these important guidelines and looks forward to assisting in implementation.

Click here to view the full guidelines.

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World Oceans Day: All eyes on oceans in June 2014

 

Photo Credit: Carlos Aguilera

Photo Credit: Carlos Aguilera

World Oceans Day is an annual reminder that the oceans are our planet’s greatest natural resource and that we must take actions to protect them. The livelihoods of millions of people around the world depend on healthy oceans, yet they face threats including overfishing, acidification and marine pollution.

Fortunately, all eyes will be on the oceans this June through a series of international events designed to raise awareness, inspire positive policies and spark conversations between local governments, fishermen and conservationists about how to build a brighter future. Here are a few events to watch:

  • Food & Agriculture Committee on Fisheries (COFI): On June 9-13, the FAO Committee on Fisheries will meet in Rome, Italy to finalize their guidelines for securing sustainable small-scale fisheries in the context of food security and poverty eradication. View the agenda here.
  • Capitol Hill Oceans Week (CHOW): From June 10-12, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation will host a week of conferences, workshops, and seminars to discuss the future of the world’s oceans. Guests and speakers come together to bridge the gaps between non-profits, academia, industry, and more to discuss the conservation of the world’s oceans and its resources. Click here to learn more.
  • State Department “Our Ocean Conference”: On June 16 & 17, Secretary of State John Kerry will convene an international conference of scientists, environmentalists and world leaders to discuss solutions for overfishing, ocean acidification and marine pollution. For those that can’t attend, you can follow along and contribute to the discussion through the #ourocean2014 hashtag on Twitter. Secretary Kerry and the Department of State will host delegates from around the world to discuss ocean issues. You can participate by registering for the Department of States’ Thunderclap.
  • Global Ocean Commission Report Release: The independent Global Ocean Commission recently released research on the value of the ocean and will share its much-anticipated recommendations on June 24th. McKinsey & Company will also release a new report detailing the economics of the seas, promising a fundamental shift in how we should value the bounty of the ocean. Learn more here.

The world’s oceans are vital resources, and will continue to be for generations to come. EDF is committed to healthy oceans, fisheries and fishing communities. It is inspiring to see the international community focus on oceans. Thanks to World Oceans Day more will come to learn about the importance of our oceans, and what we can do to protect them.

 

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5 Reasons for Hope on World Fisheries Day

bundle of fish

photo credit: tarotastic via photopin cc

Today is World Fisheries Day— a healthy reminder of how important fisheries are, regardless of where we live.

Wild fisheries must be managed and harvested sustainably in order to successfully rebuild global fish stocks and reliably feed the billions of people around the world who rely on them.

Innovative solutions are needed to establish sustainable fishing practices as the norm and to give a boost to coastal communities that rely on healthy fish stocks.

But today, global fisheries are tremendous pressure—to feed the world’s growing population and from the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.  There is, however, cause for optimism.  Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. In the United States, improved management—in part due to the flexibility and alignment of environmental, social and economic incentives that catch shares provide—is paying off.  Fish stocks are rebuilding, fishermen are finding innovative solutions to be more selective about the stocks they target and the value of commercial seafood landed in 2012 was almost 20% higher than the average of the last decade. Fishermen are also seeing increased revenue per vessel. NMFS recently released an economic study of fisheries managed under quota allotments which found revenue increases of 27% in the first year and 68% after 10 years of the program.  Read More.
  2. Earlier this year EDF examined successes from the United States and several other countries, such as Japan, Chile and Mexico, to assemble a comprehensive toolkit for designing and implementing management systems that can build resilient, profitable fisheries. This toolkit represents years of research and can deliver value to fishery managers around the world. Read More.
  3. After years of deliberation, the European Union has finalized proposals to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the EU’s framework for fisheries management.The new policy promises a better future for both fishermen and fish by providing a comprehensive management system designed to restore healthy marine environments while supporting profitable fisheries and thriving coastal communities. The new CFP, which will enter into force in January, calls for Member States to move to eliminate the wasteful practice of discarding fish at sea. It also requires fishing at sustainable, Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) levels, and supports a regionalized approach through decentralized decision-making. Read More.
  4. EDF is a proud founding member of an ambitious effort with the World Bank and more than 100 partners to bring 50% of the world’s wild fish under sustainable management in 10 years while increasing economic benefits by $20 billion annually.   This project represents impressive cooperation among countries, the private sector, NGOs and fishery stakeholders and can potentially transform the world’s fisheries and fishing communities. Read More.
  5. Many struggling or collapsed fisheries across the globe are already improving. The challenge is to replicate successful strategies and continue building partnerships with fishermen and other fishery stakeholders in the regions of the world where healthy fisheries are most essential. We are confident this can be achieved and will continue working to bring fishermen and managers together to find efficient, sustainable solutions that will work for both fish and fishermen. Read More.

We hope to have more progress to celebrate next year on World Fisheries Day.

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It’s Official: U.S. fisheries continued their upward trend in 2012

Photo Credit: NOAA

Each year, the National Marine Fisheries Service provides the public with a “statistical snapshot” of fish landings in the United States. This week, the numbers for 2012 were released via the agency’s Fisheries in the United States report. The national picture in terms of the quantity and value of fish landed was once again encouraging. And although we didn’t quite reach the historic level of 2011—which set a new record for landings value —the upward trend enabled by improved fisheries management is unmistakable.

The raw numbers in the report are another reminder of the critical role fishing plays as an economic driver in the United States. U.S. commercial fishermen landed 9.6 billion pounds of seafood in 2012, valued at $5.1 billion. The ex-vessel value of seafood landed in Alaska alone was $1.7 billion; $618.2 million in Massachusetts; $448.5 million in Maine. Those figures don’t include economic benefits derived throughout the value chain, with jobs created and supported at the docks, in processing, transportation and sales.

Recreational fisheries are also experiencing robust activity.   More than nine million anglers took 70 million trips last year, catching nearly 380 million fish. The estimated total catch weight was more than 200 million pounds, the most popular species being spotted seatrout, Atlantic croaker, black sea bass, summer flounder and red drum. Numerous other reports and studies have documented the economic benefits that recreational fishing stimulates, supporting jobs in industries ranging from marine manufacturing to tourism.

Without healthy, sustainable fisheries, none of these benefits would accrue. It’s true that we have more work to do to ensure that all our nation’s fisheries are being managed for long-term health, and that fishermen in some regions still face daunting economic challenges. But taken as a whole, this week’s report provides further evidence that the reforms of recent years are paying dividends. The value of commercial seafood landed in 2012 was almost 20% higher than the average of the last decade.

Ultimately that means more money in the pockets of fishermen—who in many parts of the country are seeing a return on their investment in new rights-based management approaches that incentivize conservation and ensure compliance with science-based catch limits.

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New management plan continues to yield conservation & economic benefits in Pacific groundfishery: NOAA report

fishery observer

WCGOP Observer
Photo Credit: NOAA Report, supplied by Sean Sullivan

On September 24, NOAA Fisheries released their report on the second year (2012) of the West Coast Groundfish Catch Shares Program, a program that EDF has been instrumental in helping to develop, implement and improve. The report notes the spirit of partnership that helped bring a catch share management system to the Pacific Coast, and praises the program's conservation and economic performance. Mostly, however, NOAA credits fishermen for using the flexibility afforded under catch shares to improve their long-term economic prospects and avoid overfished species.

 

 

Here are some highlights:

  • Conservation: The report notes “a significant reduction in the amount of bycatch,” of overfished species, and concludes that the program “is actively rebuilding several groundfish stocks.”
  • Catch: Harvest of target stocks continues to improve—up 5% from 2011.
  • Business Flexibility: Transfers of quota between fishermen increased dramatically in comparison with 2011, and were relatively constant throughout the year. This increase indicates better understanding among fishermen of how to leverage their allotment for efficient business planning.

NOAA’s report also reflects the strong and growing interest among West Coast fishery stakeholders in transitioning from 100% observer coverage on groundfish boats to lower cost alternatives, like cameras, that will still ensure 100% accountability for all catch.

The West Coast catch shares program is still a work in progress, but NOAA’s analysis is very encouraging.

“The report from the second year reinforces what we’re seeing. There are a lot of positive things happening that provide a solid foundation for building on,” said Shems Jud, Deputy Director of EDF’s Pacific Ocean team. “By working with fishermen now to help lower their operating costs and expand fishing opportunity, we think this program can be made durable for the long-term, and eventually turn into a real economic success story.”

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