Emilie Litsinger, EDF Oceans NE Groundfish Project Manager
This week senators from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island sent a letter to Eric Schwaab, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, proposing several refinements to enhance the New England groundfish sector management program. EDF agrees that we need to be adaptive and sectors – as with all fisheries management tools — need to be refined as experience is gathered and evaluated. With more than a year of operation under sectors now complete, results of the program’s performance show signs of progress that the fishery has started to turn the corner to a more ecologically and economically stable fishery.
EDF agrees with the senators and is very focused on improving the at-sea monitoring program so that is more reliable, comprehensive, and cost effective. At-sea monitoring costs need to be reduced and the use and electronic monitoring systems need to be approved. EDF commissioned Northern Economics Inc to conduct an independent 3rd party review of the current sector monitoring program to compare the program with similar programs on the Pacific Coast and in Alaska to make recommendations for improving the design and reducing the costs of the program. Read More
New England is going through a sea change this month. Fishermen who catch groundfish (cod, haddock, flounder) are shifting away from decades of failed management, which has led to the decline of fish populations and the loss of thousands of jobs. On May 1st, a type of catch share called sectors began for the groundfish fishery.
There are numerous benefits to fishermen who operate under sectors, as compared to traditional fishery management systems, such as a Days-at-Sea program:
- Now fishermen have the freedom to decide how, when and where to fish.
- Fishermen can keep a higher percentage of the fish they catch and are no longer legally forced to discard large amounts of economically valuable fish.
- For the first time in decades, fishermen have the flexibility to create and follow an actual business plan.
- For the first time, now fishermen can cooperate and time their landings so that they get a higher price for their fish and avoid market gluts.
- The days of dangerous “derby-style” fishing are over. Fishermen don’t have to race the clock anymore and can develop innovative ways to avoid bycatch and fish more selectively.
- Under sectors, fishermen are allowed to fish in portions of the Gulf of Maine Rolling Closure Areas and Georges Bank Seasonal Closure Area which were previously completely off limits to them.
- Under sectors, fishermen no longer have to worry about “cod jail,” when they had to wait out the clock on the other side of the demarcation line to land their fish.
The transition to catch shares, particularly timed with new MSA requirements of annual catch limits and accountability measures will be challenging for many in New England’s fishing industry. Yet catch shares are an improvement from the alternative — the old days-at-sea system –which is broadly agreed to be broken. This new system of management will take some getting used to but ultimately will serve the fishermen and the fisheries better.
Emilie Litsinger, EDF Oceans NE Groundfish Project Manager
This week marks another historical step towards achieving sustainable fisheries management in New England. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) just approved another year of operation for the Rhode Island Fluke Sector Program. The approval of this year’s program was contingent on the results from the pilot sector last year.
DEM presented the results of the 2009 program at a Roundtable meeting in mid-February. The results from the 2009 program were very positive, showing benefits to the resource as well as the fishermen. In fact, the pilot program participants discarded some 98% less fluke than non-participants and were also subject to higher monitoring coverage.
The program’s proven ability to reduce regulatory discards will ultimately lead to an increase in the State of Rhode Island’s quota, benefitting the entire fishery. The results also showed the program’s proven capacity to provide accurate data that facilitates a sound, scientifically based approach to the continuing analysis of sector allocation as a potential strategy for improving the management of fluke.
The sector participants reported that their participation in the program resulted in enhanced economic efficiencies, an improved ability to make sound and safe business decisions, a cooperative and collaborative orientation among fellow participants, and a heightened sense of well-being and job satisfaction. The University of Rhode Island also conducted an economic analysis on the performance of the sector in 2009. Their preliminary results showed that not only did the sector participants benefit economically from the program, but the non-sector members benefitted positively as well.
We applaud DEM for continuing to support this worthwhile program and are certain that the results from this year’s program will continue to show positive benefits to both the resource and the fishermen.
I love introducing fishermen to each other because they always have lots to talk about. Last week, EDF brought fishermen from British Columbia to six New England fishing communities. More than 100 fishermen from Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island attended the meetings, 35 people showed up in New Bedford, MA alone. The BC fishermen also met with 30 fishery managers.
The meetings focused on how catch shares work in B.C. New England fishermen are intensely interested in what’s going on in BC because the fisheries in New England are likely moving to catch shares in the near future. Becky Evans from the New Bedford Standard Times wrote an excellent story on the visits.
EDF has been brining fishermen together for years. We’ve arranged for fishermen to come to BC several times a year because we’ve found that fishermen are the best spokespeople for better fishing management. In fact, EDF brought fishermen from Belize to BC earlier this year.