Author Archives: Phoebe Higgins

CFF Supports New Fishing Community-Led Nonprofit in Monterey


Since launching in 2008, the California Fisheries Fund (CFF) has made 30 low-interest loans—ranging from $50,000 to $350,000 — providing fishermen and sustainable fishing businesses with the capital needed to upgrade boats, purchase equipment and improve their business operations.

Our recent loan to the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust—a new community-led non-profit dedicated to securing groundfish fishing rights in the Monterey Bay region—provided the organization with vital seed money to enable its establishment.

“Our loan from the CFF has been critical to our organization’s early development” said Sherry Flumerfelt, Executive Director, Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust. “With the quota we were able to buy; we can lease to local fishermen, generate lease revenues and build on the success of sustainable fisheries management.”

With its new CFF loan, the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust will be better equipped to serve a community of local, family-owned fishing businesses; ease the burden on new entrants– making it easier for new fishermen to lease quota with flexible terms; and support a personalized, one-stop-shop leasing system that provides quick and improved services for fishermen.

The Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust acquired more than $1 million in commercial groundfish quota from The Nature Conservancy. This transaction coupled with the CFF loan and The Monterey City Council’s pledge to use $225,000 from the city’s Tidelands Trust Fund to acquire fishing rights to be managed by the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust–will allow hundreds of thousands of pounds of groundfish to be caught under a sustainable fishery management program.

In 2011, this program, “catch shares," went into effect for more than 60 species of West Coast groundfish (e.g., sole, rockfish) and has achieved significant conservation goals. The new program has generated impressive conservation results:

  • In 2014, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program moved 21 species of West Coast fish to sustainable status
  • The Marine Stewardship Council certified the fishery sustainable, emphasizing the important role that the catch share program played in recovering the fishery.

The Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust enhances the West Coast program, maintaining historic fishing access in Monterey Bay and supporting the communities that rely on it (Moss Landing, Monterey and Santa Cruz). CFF is fortunate to support the Monterey Bay fishing community and advance the vision of the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust, securing the profitability and sustainability of Monterey Bay for many generations to come.

To learn more about CFF’s loan to the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust, listen to my radio interview.

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CFF Advances Sustainability Vision of Local Morro Bay Community

[Hear more about CFF from fishermen]

Yesterday, the New York Times featured a story about the new Morro Bay Community Quota Fund. With the help of a loan from EDF’s California Fisheries Fund (CFF), the Quota Fund was able to acquire fishing quota and five fishing permits from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), which the Quota Fund will lease to local fishermen to support a sustainable local fishing industry. Here at CFF we are excited to be involved in California’s first community purchase of fishing quota, contributing to the groundfish fishery’s continued environmental stewardship.

Several years ago, TNC bought these fishing permits and boats from fishermen who were interested in leaving the trawling business. TNC then leased trawl permits to fishermen who agreed to use non-trawl or low-impact trawl gear to catch the same fish with less habitat impact. This effort combined with EDF’s role in helping to get catch shares implemented for the rest of the West Coast groundfish trawl fleet has aided the fishery in bouncing back. In fact, the fishery was recently certified as sustainable and recognized by the Marine Stewardship Council as “the most diverse, complex fishery ever to enter assessment against MSC standard anywhere in the world.” Read More »

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New Video Series: California Fisheries Fund Helps Finance Sustainable Fishing

When we launched the California Fisheries Fund in 2008, it was unique and untested: a public-private partnership with the mission to make capital available to a growing sustainable commercial fishing industry.  Since then, we’ve provided more than $2.5 million in loans to fishermen, fish buyers, processors and distributors enabling them to transition to or continue more sustainable fishing business practices. Many people and institutions have reached out to ask questions about our experience and story. Some organizations are considering establishing similar funds and they’ve asked for advice on how to get started.

In response to those and a growing number of requests, we’ve developed several resources that describe our experience establishing and managing the CFF: Read More »

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California Fisheries Fund Grants Loans to Local Dungeness Fishermen

Dan Durbin

Dan Durbin standing next to his boat the Golden Girl

It’s the height of the much loved Dungeness crab season and the California Fisheries Fund (CFF) lent a helping hand to two Half Moon Bay, California fishermen just in time for them to participate in the fishing season.

Donald Marshall, a former plumber and HVAC technician, recently received a $90,000 loan from the CFF which helped him to buy a crab permit for his boat, the F/V Janet E. Donald, who has fished since the age of 5, fulfilled his life-long passion when he became a full-time fisherman three years ago. Don, the CFF’s fourteenth borrower, sells directly off the dock in Half Moon Bay at Pillar Point Harbor.

Dan Durbin, a former recreational fisherman and local business owner from San Jose, is also living his dream. With the help of a $154,000 loan, Dan purchased his first commercial fishing boat, the F/V Golden Girl, along with permits to fish for crab and salmon. Read More »

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EDF Wins Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award for California Fisheries Fund

Environmental Defense Fund was awarded California’s highest environmental honor by Governor Jerry Brown at a ceremony last night for our creation of the California Fisheries Fund (CFF). The CFF, the first fisheries-specific loan fund in California and most comprehensive in the United States, provides capital to fishermen, fishing businesses and communities who are dedicated to safeguarding the environment, their fishery’s profitability and the greater oceans economy.

The award ceremony was hosted by California EPA in Sacramento, California. During his remarks, California EPA secretary Matthew Rodriguez said that the “entities that we’re recognizing tonight are really showing us the way forward. Their unique approach shows how, given a challenge, California businesses, nonprofit organizations and businesses can really rise to the occasion.”

There can be many business challenges for fishermen to transition to more environmentally-friendly fishing practices but with the California Fisheries Fund, we’re removing roadblocks and helping fishermen continue on the path to fishing sustainably and profitably.

So far, we have awarded fourteen loans totaling nearly $1.7 million to eleven borrowers including fishermen, fishing businesses and communities. Most recently, we closed a loan to Steve Fitz, a Half Moon Bay fisherman who attended the award ceremony with us.. Steve’s CFF loan allowed him to buy his boat from his uncle and carry on his family’s sustainable fishing legacy—operating the only commercial fishing operation in the nation that uses Scottish Seine gear. The most eco-friendly way to catch flatfish like Petrale sole and sand dabs, Scottish Seine gear consists of lines which gently guide fish into the path of light-weight nets. Unlike some other types of fishing techniques, Scottish Seine doesn’t use heavy gear that drags along the ocean floor. Read More »

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California Fisheries Fund Closes New Loan

The California Fisheries Fund closed a new loan last month that will help a family fishing business pass the torch to the next generation.

 Steve Fitz, captain of the F/V Mr. Morgan, will continue his family tradition operating the only commercial fishing operation in the United States that uses Scottish Seine gear, a selective and eco-friendly way to catch groundfish. Steve’s loan from the CFF helped him buy the Mr. Morgan from his uncle and start up Mr. Morgan Fisheries, a fishing business based in Half Moon Bay, specializing in sustainably harvested groundfish and Dungeness crab.

Mr. Morgan Fisheries is known for its sand dabs, Petrale sole and chilipepper rockfish—all species sustainably-managed under a catch share program. Like all other participants in this catch share program, the Mr. Morgan receives an individual fishing quota for several groundfish species that may be harvested throughout the year, with requirements for full accountability of every pound of fish harvested, and a human observer on every fishing trip. These new fishing practices guarantee there is no overfishing and Steve can use that message to market his fish with the 100% Federal At-Sea Monitoring No Overfishing Guaranteed label.

Steve Fitz grew up fishing with his father in New England before moving west and graduating from University of Denver with a degree in business. About eighteen years ago, he moved out to Half Moon Bay, California, to fish with his uncle, eventually becoming the captain of the F/V Mr. Morgan in 2000. Read More »

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