Author Archives: Kate Bonzon

Catch Shares: Harvesting Sustainable Catches

Originally published on November 18, 2013 on the Oceans Health Index Website


Introduction

Written by Steven Katona, Managing Director, Ocean Health Index

Maximizing sustainable food production from the ocean by harvest of wild fish stocks and production of farmed species by mariculture is one of the 10 goals evaluated by the Ocean Health Index, and it is especially closely watched because it is so critical for the future.

Three billion people out of today’s world population of 7.1 billion people depend on seafood for their daily protein and fish contribute a greater proportion of protein to the average diet than poultry.  A single serving of fish or shellfish (150 g) provides 60% of a person’s daily protein requirement, but the ocean’s continued ability to meet that need is in doubt.  Our population is rising steadily and will reach about 8 billion by 2024 and 9 billion by 2040, but the annual catch from wild ocean fisheries has stayed at about 80 million metric tons since about 1990 despite increased effort.  The reason is that too many stocks are overfished and too much productivity is sacrificed as bycatch, illegal and unregulated catch and as a result of habitat loss caused by destructive fishing practices.

Yet without increased wild harvest and augmented mariculture production, the risk of malnutrition will increase for hundreds of millions of people, because the catch will have to be shared by so many more mouths.

Why would we expect fish landings to increase in the future if they haven’t done so since 1990? Clearly with business as usual, they won’t, but a number of new strategies and tools offer hope.  Catch shares is one of them.  We’re pleased to welcome Kate Bonzon, Director of Environmental Defenses Fund’s Catch Share Design Center, to explain how catch shares are working worldwide and highlight some of their benefits.

Even though catch shares have been used in a diversity of fisheries around the world, the idea of catch shares is new in many places, and it has occasioned some misunderstanding and subsequent debate around the best way to manage fisheries.  However, catch shares give a powerful incentive and opportunity for fishers to care for their fish stocks, thereby improving the consistency, sustainability and possibly magnitude of their catches, while also improving their livelihoods.

More sustainable fishing will not only help fishers and fish stocks, but it will also improve scores on many of the other goals evaluated by the Ocean Health Index.  Of course there are trade-offs between the goals, but meeting the goals for sustainability embodied within each goal will improve the ocean’s ability to sustainably deliver a range of benefits to people now and in the future.  What’s more, the ocean’s animals, plants and habitats will benefit too.

Catch Shares: Harvesting Sustainable Catches

Fish were once thought to be so abundant that we could take our fill and never deplete them; that wild fisheries were inexhaustible and would always be plentiful. But over the past few decades, there is growing recognition that most of the world's wild fisheries are in trouble and fishing has had a tremendous impact. Globally, nearly two-thirds of wild fisheries are overfished, leaving depleted fish stocks and low yields. New evidence on fisheries with little data, which account for 80% of the global catch, is especially concerning. Once thought to be relatively stable, many of these fisheries are, in fact, overfished and facing collapse. Depletion of this resource threatens not only ocean health but the billions of people who depend on fish for food and jobs.

The good news is fisheries are a renewable resource. And the key to sustainably managing them is ensuring there are enough fish left in the ocean to produce future generations. Future fish generations will keep fresh and sustainable seafood on the plates of the billions of people around the world who rely on them for protein, and wages in the pockets of millions of fishing industry workers who depend on them to support their livelihoods.

And there is more good news. There are effective fishery management programs-called catch shares-that are doing all of the above. As of 2013, about 200 catch shares programs are  managing more than 500 different species in 40 countries. Very much like dividing a pizza or pie, catch shares give a secure fishing area or privilege to catch a share of a fishery’s total allowable catch to an individual or group. And with this privilege, fishing participants are expected to fish within their allotted amount.

The success of catch shares lies in the ability to give fishermen a long-term stake in the fishery and tie their current behavior to future environmental outcomes. Specifically, catch shares align fishermen’s incentives through a system of rights, responsibilities and rewards. By giving fishermen the privilege or right to a secure area or share of the catch, fishermen also retain the responsibility to conserve fish stocks and marine ecosystems and are subsequently rewarded by stable and healthy fish populations. Importantly, catch shares are flexible and can be custom designed to meet the different characteristics and goals of diverse fisheries.  Some catch share programs have allocated shares to groups—often called Cooperative catch shares—and others have allocated shares to individuals—often called Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs) or Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs).  Area-based catch shares, often called Territorial Use Rights for Fishing, or TURFs, allocate secure, exclusive areas to fishermen. And within these differing types of catch shares are a multitude of design features that have, and can, be used to meet different goals. Around the world, from small artisanal fisheries to large commercial fishing operations, well-designed catch share programs are increasing compliance with catch limits, reducing the amount of bycatch and discarded fish, increasing revenues and reducing fishing expenses, proving that good yields can indeed happen sustainably. A 2011 study of 345 fish stocks around the world found that those managed with catch shares had significantly lower cases of overexploitation when compared to conventional management practices. And another study found that the implementation of these systems “halts, and even reverses—widespread fishery collapse.” This positive trend is largely driven by catch shares ability to encourage compliance with mortality controls.

Numerous studies on these fisheries have reported a dramatic drop in bycatch and discarded fish including a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report which found that catch share fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico reduced red snapper discards by 50% in 2010, just three years after a catch share program was implemented. And in some fisheries like the Alaskan pollock fishery, fishermen create voluntary no-take zones to avoid bycatch of at-risk species while targeting specific species. In the Alaska halibut fishery after just one year of catch share implementation, there was an 80% drop in ghost fishing (when lost or abandoned gear continues to kill fish). Read More »

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Catch Share Design Center Releases New Toolkit for Fisheries

Fishermen and fishery managers often have few resources to help them navigate the tricky or challenging management decisions they regularly face.  That’s why the Catch Share Design Center has developed a comprehensive toolkit for designing and implementing management systems that can build resilient, profitable fisheries.

Back in 2010, we released the Catch Share Design Manual. It was the most comprehensive overview of catch shares, to date, and included a step-by-step process that stakeholders could use to evaluate their fishery and design a custom program suited to fit their specific needs.  Most importantly, it drew on the knowledge and experience of fisheries experts around the globe.

Since the Catch Share Design Manual’s initial release, we’ve heard from fishermen, managers and other fisheries stakeholders all over the world. Some of the feedback offered expertise and recommendations, while others sought advice and requested specific new research.  All of it was useful and this new toolkit is a response to those requests.

We all know that lack of effective management can be devastating to fish populations, the billions of people around the world who rely on seafood for protein and the millions who rely on the stability of the fishing industry to support their livelihoods.  By sharing this toolkit, we are providing fisheries stakeholders with the tools needed to recover fish populations and ensure that fisheries are sustainable and prosperous in the long-term.

The toolkit includes:

Over the course of the next several blog posts by Catch Share Design Center team members, we will feature key topics addressed in the toolkit – Cooperatives, TURFs, approaches for data-limited fisheries and more.  Each post will hit the high points that we discovered in developing our new resources.

We are very excited to share these new materials and hope you find them useful, interesting and helpful.  All of the documents are available for PDF download.  If you would like a hard copy of the materials sent to you, or if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please reach out to us at catchsharequestions@edf.org  

-Kate Bonzon, Director, Catch Share Design Center

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Marine Resources Economics Grants Award to Authors of Study on Bering Sea Crab Fishery Catch Shares

 

Seabrooke-Discovery

The Seabrooke. Photo credit: Discovery Channel

Marine Resource Economics announced Joshua K. Abbott Brian Garber-Yonts, and James E. Wilen as recipients of the 2010 Dr. S.-Y. Hong Award for Outstanding Article. The peer-reviewed article, Employment and Remuneration Effects of IFQs in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Crab Fisheries found that the majority of working crews in the Bering Sea red king crab and snow crab fisheries benefited in the first three years of catch share implementation.

Abbott, an Assistant Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics in Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, wrote an EDFish blog post on the study in 2010. According to the study, crab fishing in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands became more productive following catch share implementation. Crab fishing also became more lucrative for crews – seasons lengthened, employment in crew hours and daily crew pay remained stable, and seasonal crew pay increased substantially. Read More »

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New Study Evaluates 15 Fisheries in the U.S. and British Columbia Before and After Catch Shares

Can a Change in Management Solve the World’s Most Pressing Marine Conservation Challenge and Foster Vibrant Coastal Communities? A new study published in the journal Marine Policy finds that reforming how fisheries are managed can successfully restore and maintain healthy fish populations and benefit both fishermen and fishing-dependent communities.  The study evaluated 15 fisheries in the U.S. and British Columbia before and after adopting "catch shares” — a type of fishery management increasingly common worldwide.

Catch shares, the study found, delivers “clear gains in environmental performance (and) major economic improvements” as well as dramatic improvements in safety for fishermen.  The improvements were found across a range of fisheries in the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and extended to fishermen from both small and large vessels, using a diversity of gears and targeting a variety of fish.  In contrast, the study found that these same fisheries performed poorly under traditional fishery management in virtually all areas.

Overall, the study is a dose of good news at a time when most news we hear about oceans is bad.  The results also come at a time when some in Congress are pushing to eliminate fishermen’s ability to pursue catch shares for their fisheries.  The findings point to a clear choice about which strategy the nation should pursue to achieve abundant oceans that also allow fishermen and fishing-dependent communities to prosper. Read More »

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Catch Share Conversations: Comparing Monitoring Systems in U.S. Catch Share Fisheries

In closing this round of Catch Share Conversations on monitoring, which we started last week, we compare and contrast monitoring systems in a number of US catch share fisheries.  Each of these fisheries have uniquely tailored monitoring approaches to accommodate the fishery’s goals and characteristics.  The attached chart provides a snapshot of the monitoring programs employed by catch share fisheries in the United States and provides an opportunity to compare and contrast across different fisheries.

For example, the utilization of monitoring options to meet the management demands of these fisheries yields creative monitoring solutions from the cage-tagging system used by the surf clam/ocean quahog fishery to the multipart dockside and at-sea observer program applied by the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program.  The chart also includes comparative information such as average vessel length, number of participating vessels, gear type, programs costs, funding sources and more.

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Catch Share Conversations: Monitoring Systems Case Studies

Teal basket full of red snapper

Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper

Throughout this week in our Catch Share Conversations series, we have explored the importance of monitoring, and discussed best practices of monitoring systems. Today, we present two case studies—British Columbia Groundfish and Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish– that highlight the diversity of fisheries and accompanying monitoring systems.  These distinctly different examples show how monitoring systems reflect the unique goals and characteristics of a fishery and how two different fisheries design monitoring programs to meet their needs. 

The British Columbia Groundfish fishery is a multispecies fishery with a fleet that employs a wide range of gear types. It employs one of the most sophisticated monitoring systems in the world, including hail in/hail out, 100 percent dockside coverage, 100 percent at-sea monitoring, including observers for trawl vessels, and electronic video monitoring for hook & line and trap vessels.

The Gulf of Mexico Reef fish fishery is a multispecies fishery. The fishery uses logbooks, partial at-sea monitoring, dockside coverage, electronic reporting, VMS and hail in/hail out monitoring techniques to reach program goals. 

Read the complete fact sheets for more details on the British Columbia Groundfish and Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish monitoring systems.

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Guiding Principles for Development of Effective Monitoring Programs

The Guiding Principles for Development of Effective Monitoring Programs, summarized in our Catch Share Conversations fact sheet, is the result of two workshops convened by MRAG Americas and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in 2010.  The Guiding principles summarize lessons from around the world and are intended to provide fishery managers and stakeholders with guidance on the planning, design, implementation and improvement of monitoring programs.  The Guiding Principles should be a point of departure, and recognize the individuality of each fishery.  They draw upon the expertise of over two dozen national and international monitoring experts, including national and international government employees, fishing industry representatives, and monitoring company employees.  By outlining key components to consider and providing concise recommendations, the Guiding Principles can expedite and improve the design of monitoring programs. Read the entire document here.

Monitoring Principles

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Catch Share Conversations: Catch Shares and Monitoring Ensure Effective Management

Monitoring is an essential component of effective and successful fisheries management. Reliable monitoring and reporting can support and improve the management of a fishery by providing verifiable information on fishing activities and assessing the performance and success of fisheries management plans.  Developing an effective monitoring program can be complex and many programs evolve over time. 

Catch share fisheries tend to have robust monitoring programs and the transition to catch share management offers the opportunity to design an effective monitoring system. In the collection of Catch Share Conversations being presented this week on EDFish, we summarize common monitoring approaches, discuss how monitoring systems provide incentives for participants, offer case studies of existing monitoring programs, and present Guiding Principles for the development and implementation of a monitoring system.

Read our full fact sheet on how catch shares and monitoring ensure effective fisheries management.

Monitoring Data Collection Techniques Chart

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