Author Archives: Heather Paffe

How a growing partnership is reducing overfishing in Belize and beyond

fisherman takes meat out of a conch shell

Gumercindo Cano, a Managed Access fisherman, takes the meat out of a conch shell
Photo credit: Heather Paffe

Fishing in the developing tropics looks very different from fishing in the United States. It’s easy to forget that millions of people around the world rely on wild fish for their daily protein and survival, rather than being able to purchase it from a grocery store. This is the case in the countries where EDF will work in partnership with Rare and University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) on our ‘Fish Forever’ project. Fish Forever will focus on work with communities in the developing tropics to reduce overfishing and implement new guidelines that will allow fisheries to recover and more consistently provide the nutrition that so many depend upon.  Part of that work will establish territorial user rights in fisheries (TURFs – called Managed Access in Belize), coupled with no-take reserves (replenishment zones/Marine Protected Areas) to advance sustainable fisheries, empower fishermen and bring those solutions to scale.

I recently returned from a governance committee trip to Belize with our partners, Brett Jenks, President of Rare, and Steve Gaines, Dean of UCSB's Bren School of Environmental Science and Management and principal investigator for the Sustainable Fisheries Group. This trip was a vital way to connect with the community and government on the ground in Belize and understand the skills that each member of the partnership brings to the table.

The partnership provides an opportunity for EDF, Rare, UCSB and local partners to improve fisheries science and knowledge by using data-poor stock assessments to effectively design TURF-Reserves and use social marketing techniques to inspire the necessary behavior changes for sustainable fisheries management.

During this particular trip, we went to Port Honduras Marine Reserve, which already has a Managed Access system, and Hol Chan Marine Reserve, where the Government of Belize and partners in the Fish Forever initiative have already begun the process of engaging communities for the implementation of Managed Access.  By visiting these sites, we saw how important it is to link Managed Access with Replenishment Zones.  Fishermen in Managed Access areas will protect the replenishment zone because they benefit from the spillover effect of more fish.  The partnership will be coordinating with the Government, The Nature Conservancy, and Wildlife Conservation Society – the three organizations in Belize leading the initiative to expand replenishment zones.

EDF has worked with Belizean fishermen for the past five years to establish managed access pilot sites that are being used as a model for the national expansion. Our success on the ground is a result of hard work and relationship building. We have led several workshops that brought government officials, fishing cooperative leaders, NGO managers, conservationists and scientists together. We are excited to expand on our 5 years of work in Belize by bringing in additional partners that will add valuable skills and expertise to our existing partnerships on the ground to find common solutions for similar fishing nations.

During the trip I saw strong support from Government and the close working relationships with local partners.  I am excited to see the coalition partners planning further engagement with communities and developing a strategy for generating support for TURF reserves across the country. The project will operate in several developing tropic countries, and we hope that Belize will be a model for working successfully with fishermen and local governments to establish sustainable fishery solutions.

Posted in Latin America & Caribbean, Marine Protection| Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Now In Your H-E-B, Gulf Wild™ Seafood

Gulf Wild™ Red Snapper and Grouper

Photo courtesy of Gulf Wild™

It wasn’t that long ago that the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery was on the brink of collapse.  The fishermen were stuck in a race-for-fish that was both dangerous and expensive.

Fishermen were going out of business or barely hanging on, and the red snapper population was in serious trouble.  The out-dated fishery management system wasn’t working, and consumers could only count on getting fresh, local snapper during a brief season every year. That was until a group of commercial fishermen and EDF came together to find a solution.

That solution – the red snapper catch share program – began in 2007.  Because this program proved successful almost immediately, fishermen were able to expand the program to include grouper and tilefish in 2010.  This has helped to make commercial fishing a viable industry again, consumers are able to get fish they love year-round, the amount of wasted fish has dramatically decreased, and once depleted populations are steadily rebuilding. Read More »

Posted in BP Oil Disaster, Catch Shares, EDF Oceans General, Gulf of Mexico, Seafood| Tagged , | Comments closed

Magistrate Judge Finds Gulf of Mexico Grouper and Tilefish IFQ Legal

EDF is pleased with the report and recommendations made by a magistrate judge that upholds the validity of Amendment 29.  We agree that the Council and NOAA properly implemented the program, and experience has shown that it is working the way it was intended.  The IFQ has proven to be tremendously valuable to improving the conservation and management of the fishery.  We hope that this ruling marks the end of this case.  But if not, we will continue to defend the IFQ.

Posted in Catch Shares, Gulf of Mexico| Comments closed

Collaboration with Industry is Crucial to Protect Fish and Put Fishermen Back on the Water

Heather Paffe, Regional Director, Gulf of Mexico and Southeast

Heather Paffe, Regional Director, Gulf of Mexico and Southeast - EDF Oceans

In many fisheries, the rules for recreational fishing are tightened every year. This is bad for charter, tackle and other businesses; it keeps anglers off the water and it threatens the U.S.’s long-standing fishing heritage.

It’s clear that current fishing rules aren’t working.  EDF believes that collaboration between conservationists, fishermen, and managers is the best way to find a new management approach that works to protect fish – so that they’re more plentiful in the future – and put fishermen back on the water. If things don’t change, the federal government will continue to impose more rules, such as widespread closures.

Last week EDF hosted a collaborative workshop with for-hire (charter) fishermen from across the country to understand how their fishery management can be improved in order to truly recover popular fisheries.  Understanding if catch shares could work for for-hire fisheries was an important part of this discussion.  This workshop is one among many in which EDF has reached out to fishermen to better understand their concerns and discuss potential solutions that work to improve fishermen’s access and catches as well as recover fish populations.  Sportsmen already carry a well-known conservation ethic, which will help guide future progress.

Future access for responsible recreational fishing is threatened due to flawed federal management practices and a “business as usual” approach will only accelerate this trend. We can and should advance innovative reforms that build off the existing conservation ethic of sustainability through stewardship that our nation’s sportsmen embody. It all begins by starting the conversation.

Posted in Catch Shares, Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic| Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

As oil-related fishery closures quickly grow, EDF supports Senator Nelson’s Florida fishery disaster designation request

NOAA 6/2/10 Fishery Closure Map

Click the map to learn more about the current fishery closure covering 37% of the Gulf (6/2/10).

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) requested a fishery disaster designation for the state of Florida to assist fishermen, their families, and associated businesses who are feeling the impacts of the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a closure of 37% of federal fishing waters, many along the coast of Florida. Just yesterday, 31% of the Gulf was closed and on Monday 26% was closed. These extensive and growing closures are already impacting the Gulf’s multi-billion dollar fishing and tourist industries.

EDF supports Senator Nelson’s request, which will provide federal assistance to affected Florida fishermen and communities, and encourages U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke to make this designation.

On May 24, the Department of Commerce made a disaster designation for Gulf of Mexico fisheries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

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Sportfishing, Conservation Groups Suggest Oil Spill Spending Priorities for Administration and Congress

Thirteen groups signed letters today to both the Administration and Congressional Appropriators in response to the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  The letters present fishery management and economic-related recommendations for broadening the scope of and increasing the amount of funding in the spending package proposed on May 12 by President Obama.

The groups' recommendations cover fishery management, including stock assessments, improvements to fishery data collection and monitoring, and cooperative research, so that fishery managers will have the most accurate and timely information to assess the impacts of the spill. The groups also recommend direct economic relief for recreational fishing businesses and other fishing-related businesses.

Sign-on letter participants:

  • American Sportfishing Association
  • Berkley Conservation Institute
  • The Billfish Foundation
  • Bonefish and Tarpon Trust
  • Center for Coastal Conservation
  • Coastal Conservation Association
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • International Game Fish Association
  • National Marine Manufacturers Association
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • The Ocean Conservancy
  • Oceana
  • Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

EDF made a complementary request to Congress and the President earlier this week for at least $100 million to help fishing communities recover from the spill.

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Gulf fishermen, EDF request $100 million to help fishing communities recover from oil spill

Click here to view the full letter.

As the BP-Deepwater Horizon Oil Well Disaster continues to spill massive amounts of oil into the ocean—jeopardizing the multi-billion dollar fishing, tourism and other ocean-related industries in the Gulf—EDF is partnering with Gulf fishing organizations to recommend several urgent initiatives to mitigate the devastating ecological and economic consequences for the Gulf region and beyond.

The Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance and the Gulf Fishermen’s Association joined us in signing a letter that is being distributed today to Congress and the President to provide guidance for responding to the growing crisis.

In the letter, we advocate 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.

First and foremost, we urge BP and its business partners, Congress, and the Administration to ensure that all possible means are applied to regain control of the oil well, ensure that the dispersants used are the safest and most effective available, and that damages are cleaned-up as quickly as possible.

Once the spill is stopped, the short- and long-term measures below are needed to begin the long process of helping ocean resources and coastal communities recover.

Short-term: Institute a fishing community recovery program.

  • LOSS RECOVERY: Help commercial and recreational fishermen and fishing-related businesses recover lost income including commercial fishing operations, seafood dealers and retailers, charter vessels and guides, bait and tackle shops, marinas, and others harmed.
  • SEAFOOD SAFETY: Help the commercial and charter boat fishing industries implement seafood and catch traceability and verification systems to ensure that commercial fishermen and charter vessels harvest fish from waters declared safe and healthy by federal regulators.
  • PUBLIC INFORMATION: Assist the commercial and recreational fishing industries to rebuild business by providing assistance to develop a public information and media campaign to highlight the real, versus perceived, impacts of catching and consuming Gulf fish to ensure consumer confidence.
  • FISHERIES BASELINE INFORMATION: Accelerate stock assessment and data collection efforts for commercial and recreational fisheries to expand and enhance baseline data on the present status of key fisheries affected by the oil spill.

Long-term: Increase fishery and community resilience through better science and management.

  • SCIENCE AND DATA: Improve science and data collection for commercial and recreational fisheries by providing significant additional funding to measure the long-term impact of the oil spill on fish stocks and track the pace of their recovery, and engage fishing vessels in research that contributes to better fishery science and enhanced seafood safety.
  • FISHERY MANAGEMENT: Increase fishing business resilience to natural and manmade disasters by accelerating fishery management reforms that achieve compliance with fishery management goals.

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Senator Shelby Makes Right Call Requesting Gulf Fishery Disaster Designation Addressing Oil Spill

Fishing businesses across the Gulf, such as these charter boats in Alabama, are facing major economic challenges from the oil spill.

Yesterday U.S. Senator Shelby requested a Gulf of Mexico fisheries disaster declaration from the Secretary of Commerce in the face of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

EDF fully supports this action and encourages U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke to grant the request.

The Gulf coast economy is closely tied to the well-being of its oceans. The uncontrolled oil spill severely threatens ecosystems and, by extension, the Gulf’s multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries.

By granting Senator Shelby’s request, Secretary Locke can help provide much needed federal assistance to affected Gulf fishermen and fishing communities.

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