Congress is about to embark on a review of what has worked and what hasn’t in a law widely regarded as having halted overfishing in many American fisheries. Though we have made progress here in the United States, overfishing is wreaking havoc on the world’s oceans and the mismanagement of our fisheries is the chief cause. Recent peer reviewed science estimates that 64% of global fisheries are depleted below the levels required to sustain production.
Overfishing can lead to the loss of important species that can upend the balance of critical ocean food webs leading to the further degradation of our ocean. To save the ocean, we must end overfishing.
One of EDF’s missions is to rebuild global fisheries with the best possible solutions that serve both fishermen and fish so that future generations can enjoy sustainable seafood, fishermen can continue to fish profitably, and our seas are healthy and abundant. Peer reviewed and published scientific evidence and our decades of experience have shown that catch shares are one of the best solutions for rebuilding depleted fisheries both in the United States and globally. Read More
In a disappointing move for the environment and the fishing industry, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a rider that would effectively ban new federal catch shares for fisheries in the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.
Thanks in large part to catch shares, many fisheries in the United States have been turning a corner after decades of overfishing, massive job losses and closures. Fish caught in catch shares currently account for about half of the value and over three quarters of the volume of commercial landings in federal waters.
Some fisheries still under conventional management have not yet recovered, causing fishermen to suffer. This misguided rider would thwart progress and take a proven tool off the table for struggling fishermen and regional fishery management councils.
The rider was approved by a vote of 220-191, a smaller margin than when a similar rider was approved last year by a vote of 259-159. More members of Congress have come to oppose a ban because they want to make our oceans more sustainable for the fish and fishermen. Read More
Hundreds of fishermen rallied today in Washington, D.C. to voice frustration over fishing regulations. We understand that many fishermen are frustrated, often for good reason. Even though some fisheries have rebounded, in many places preventing overfishing has meant shrinking fishing seasons or even implementing closures, approaches that have serious economic impacts and limit access.
However, the focus should not be on gutting the law. Instead we need to use the flexibility in the law and innovative management approaches to address the challenges we face. For example, NOAA is using this flexibility to address the looming crisis with Gulf of Maine cod, using the law’s emergency provisions to allow higher levels of fishing while open scientific questions are investigated further. Many sides have come together to propose a solution that we hope will protect both the fish and the fishermen.
We can't go back to overfishing, but we can use ideas available under existing law to rebuild fisheries and give fishermen the flexibility to improve both fish populations and profits. While many speakers at today’s rally pushed various bills that would impose top-down mandates from Washington, we believe fishery management is best decided at the council level where fishermen can directly influence how the resource they depend on is managed.
President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2013 budget earlier today, and we are pleased to see that it includes $174 million for sustainable fisheries work by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The appropriation will fund the science and management needed to support the commercial fishing industry that’s responsible for 1 million jobs and yields more than $32 billion in income every year.
The president’s budget includes $28 million for the National Catch Share Program, a critical part of the nation’s strategy to return its fisheries to abundance and keep fishermen on the water. It is the same level adopted by the Congress last year. We applaud the president and Congress for their support of catch share programs and we look forward to working with Congress to ensure that important fishery management functions have adequate funding and fishermen have all the tools they need, including catch shares.
Catch shares have become integral to the success and sustainability of many fisheries across the country, but today their future is unclear. A ban on catch shares is now being decided behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, without any public debate or vote. This is a desperate move in response to the House and Senate rejecting the ban their spending bills.
Nineteen members of Congress have written to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Commerce subcommittee asking to ban further funding for this innovative tool in the Atlantic, effectively eliminating an important option available to fishermen and fisheries managers.
The ban would be added into an appropriations “minibus” package that the House Appropriations Committee and the Commerce subcommittee are currently working on. This is the last opportunity to get this measure into appropriations legislation this year. This measure would block work on, and implementation of, any new catch shares programs even where local fishermen and others are eager to adopt them. Read More