Author Archives: Phoebe Higgins

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.

Both Don and Dan’s CFF loans coincide with the transition to a crab pot limit program. Under the new pot limit, the maximum number of pots that can be fished by each vessel is set at between 175 and 500. Both Don and Dan have 250-pot limits.  This management change brings California’s regulations on par with Oregon and Washington, leveling the playing field between the three states where there is often cross-over in fishing effort. The hope is that the new regulation will reduce fishing capacity, decrease competition on the water, increase safety and reduce the amount of lost gear in the sea.

This is a pivotal time for California crab. While questions still remain regarding the effectiveness of the new regulations’ ability to slow down derby fishing we’re happy that the fishery is taking the necessary steps toward sustainability by addressing the over-capacity and excessive fishing effort it has faced for so long. We are also thrilled to see this all stem from a collaborative effort between fishermen and policymakers and are even more thrilled to help fishermen transition to pot limits through our CFF loans.

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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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California Fisheries Fund Partners with Bank for Exciting New Loan

CFF California Fisheries Fund (Logo)The California Fisheries Fund, a project of Environmental Defense Fund, kicked off 2011 by issuing its sixth and largest loan since the revolving loan fund was launched in 2008 to invest in sustainable fishing businesses on the West Coast.

The loan was made possible by a unique business partnership with San Francisco-based New Resource Bank. CFF and New Resource Bank partnered to extend a $3 million loan to Wild Planet Foods, a sustainable seafood company in McKinleyville, California. Read what the San Francisco Business Times had to say about the California Fisheries Fund: 

“The loans can be used to finance all kinds of improvements that foster sustainability. Some of those include upgrades in fishing gear that let fishermen catch more of the fish they’re targeting and less of the fish they’re not, and dockside infrastructure like chillers that would allow fishermen to keep and sell products locally as opposed to trucking it to other markets.”

The partnership between the California Fisheries Fund, New Resource Bank and Wild Planet represents a growing trend where for-profits and non-profits share many of the same values and an interest in mission-driven outcomes. In this case, all three organizations are driven by a mission of promoting and supporting environmental sustainability, with two of them—CFF and Wild Planet—specifically focused on sustainable fisheries.

Now the CFF is expanding its loan program outside of California to the entire West Coast. Just this week, the California Fisheries Fund closed its first loan in Washington state.  To learn more about the California Fisheries Fund, please visit: http://www.californiafisheriesfund.org/index.html

Press release: http://www.californiafisheriesfund.org/press_rel_012111.html

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Eating My Way Toward More Sustainable Oceans

Phoebe Higgins is a loan officer/project manager for the California Fisheries Fund, a project of Environmental Defense Fund.

I consider myself a green foodie, so I was really excited about Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Cooking for Solutions,” an annual sustainable cuisine event. I got to meet world-famous chefs like Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and learn about sustainable seafood.

smoked black cod

Of course the food was out of this world. Who knew that an albacore tuna Reuben could taste so good? A close second was the mosaic fishcake paired with French breakfast radishes from Chez Panisse and a sardine crostini served up by Fish in Sausalito. Although the common thread behind these dishes was their “eco-friendly” status, I was really hoping the menu would share the stories behind the fish.

I'm always curious to know who caught the fish, where, and how the fisheries are being managed. In fact, I think food tastes better when I get to know the people who contributed to bringing it to my plate.

Phoebe Higgins with CFF consultant David Crabbe at Cooking for SolutionsMy project, the California Fisheries Fund, helps make this link. It supports fishermen who bring sustainable seafood to the American table. CFF is a $5 million, first-of-its kind revolving loan fund created to restore California’s fisheries, and we just gave out our first three loans. One of the borrowers, Roger Cullen, is a Morro Bay fisherman whose loan for a new vessel will allow him to fish for black cod and rockfish more efficiently with gear that reduces bycatch.

Roger unloads his catch with another CFF borrower, Morro Bay Fish Company, whose loan proceeds are helping grow its operations for unloading fish from local fishermen who use innovative trap and hook-and-line gear. After reaching the docks, much of this seafood is shipped to Central Coast Seafood, in Atascadero, CA. Their CFF loan has allowed them to upgrade its freezers and inventory and boost marketing for its sustainable products.

Butter-poached sole with cara cara orangesTo connect people directly with our borrowers’ products and highlight CFF investments, we held a big launch at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley on March 30th. More than 100 people heard firsthand from the very folks whose livelihood is centered around bringing wild-caught fish to our stores and restaurants. We chose Google as a host because, in contract with Bon Appétit Management Company, they have a strong commitment to purchasing sustainable seafood.

I think the fact that the launch was covered by Fast Company, GreenBiz and Sustainable Industries proves that the business community is starting to take note of the profitability of America’s sustainable fisheries. Best of all, I was able to sit down to a meal of eco-friendly fish and hear the story behind the food I was eating. I’ll never look at smoked black cod toasts and butter-poached sole with cara cara oranges the same way again!

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