Author Archives: Rod Fujita

New process helps managers make informed decisions, even in data poor fisheries

The coast of Galicia, Spain where octopus, goose barnacles, and many other species are harvested by small scale fishermen and women.

The coast of Galicia, Spain where octopus, goose barnacles, and many other species are harvested by small-scale fishermen and women.

Fishery managers, scientists and NGOs from all over Spain gathered in Madrid on a warm spring morning at a workshop convened by EDF and World Wildlife Fund Spain, eager to learn about how to collect, analyze, and use data to manage fishing mortality so that they could achieve their goal of good yields sustained over many years and even generations.

Like many people struggling to improve fishery outcomes around the world, the participants in this workshop felt like they couldn’t use the complex fishery assessment models they had learned in school because the data they actually had in hand were quite limited – and the models required rich streams of data.  The vast majority – probably over 80% – of the world’s fisheries appear to be in this situation.  The participants also felt like they had to make important management decisions with limited expertise by wading through a mass of technical papers on a variety of topics, none giving clear and specific guidance for the specific fisheries they care so much about.

Over the course of three intense days, participants worked together to synthesize guidance from the literature and from other fisheries on how to monitor fisheries, choose appropriate analytical methods and use the results to manage fisheries.  Together, we worked out how this guidance could be applied to specific fisheries.

We were thrilled to read the evaluations afterward.  Participants got a tremendous amount out of the workshop, but many of them said that it was too short (even though most of us were exhausted by the long days of thinking hard and practicing various skills).  They wanted to dig deeper and build on the skills that they had learned.  It would have been great to have a large body of international expertise on monitoring, data analysis and how to adjust fishing mortality to achieve fishery management goals in one convenient place that could be tailored to the fisheries that they care most about.

FishPath: Guiding managers in complex, data poor fisheries

Fortunately, a working group of international stock assessment experts convened by the Science for Nature and People program foresaw this need and developed a process called FishPath that does exactly that.  FishPath  elicits key information about a specific fishery and then uses that information to identify monitoring, assessment and harvest control options that will likely be appropriate for that fishery.  Read More »

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New study underscores urgency to rebuild global fisheries

By: Rod Fujita & Doug Rader

iStock_000029334204_smallerPeople have been catching fish for thousands of years, so you’d think by now we would have a pretty good idea of how fisheries are doing.  However, the two most basic numbers that you need to answer that question – how many fish are in the sea, and how many are being caught – have been highly uncertain.

A new study published in Nature by researchers at the University of British Columbia finds that the number of fish in the sea has been underestimated, and that the world’s fisheries should be more closely monitored. We couldn’t agree more.

It’s critically important for scientists to estimate these numbers so we can tell whether catch is too high, too low, or just right.  The stakes are enormous: these numbers and trends will determine what management actions are necessary to ensure that fisheries can continue to provide healthy food for billions of people and provide livelihoods for tens of millions. Read More »

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Honoring the ‘Founding Father’ of Marine Protection Science

Photo: Kennedy Warne

Photo: Kennedy Warne

All who enjoy the wild biodiversity of the seas should take a moment this week to mark the passing of Dr. Bill Ballantine, the Founding Father of what has become a fast-growing global network of marine protected areas.

The science of setting aside unique sanctuaries from development is an art that dates back centuries – at least on land. America’s own federally designated national parks, wildlife refuges, and forest reserves can be traced to the mid-1800s.

But ocean protection is a relatively recent phenomenon, emerging only in the late 1970s. And it’s arguably more difficult to know how to chart, value and protect life that is hidden from view. Read More »

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Brazilian Fisheries: Big, Beautiful and Complex

Fishing shack along a mangrove channel, Brazil

Fishing shack along a mangrove channel, Brazil

I recently visited Brazil for the first time to work with our partners in Fish Forever to choose sites to work in over the next several years, with the goal of turning fisheries with declining yields and profits into success stories for fishermen, their communities, and the environment. Fish Forever is a partnership between Rare, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Brazil’s 300,000 square mile shelf produced about 550,000 tons of seafood in 2011, worth over $US 1.5 billion, and employs about 1 million people according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Read More »

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At The Brink: Ocean Tipping Points

Healthy Coral in the Gardens of the Queen, Cuba. Photo: Noel Lopez Fernandez

Healthy sponge in the Gardens of the Queen, Cuba. Photo: Noel Lopez Fernandez

Coral reefs seem delicate, but when they are healthy they can take a lot of abuse.  I’ve seen corals recover from severe hurricanes and even volcanic eruptions. But coral reefs can also transition suddenly from colorful, vibrant ecosystems to mere shadows of themselves.  Decades of scientific investigation have shed a lot of light on this, and in a recent publication, my colleagues and I summarize a lot of the data that have been collected on Caribbean coral reefs to identify where these dangerous “tipping points” are.  This work is part of the Ocean Tipping Points project, a collaboration between several institutions aimed at finding tipping points in all kinds of marine ecosystems so that managers can implement measures that will keep these ecosystems well away from the brink. Read More »

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Coral Reef Thresholds for Ecosystem Management

(c) Jim Patterson Photography, https://jimpattersonphotography.com/

(c) Jim Patterson Photography, https://jimpattersonphotography.com/

By: Rod Fujita & Kendra Karr

Fisheries management is principally focused on managing fishing pressure, with the goal of keeping individual fish stocks healthy enough to produce good yields.  But fisheries also affect the basic processes that keep ocean ecosystems healthy.  This is why it is important to understand how many fish need to be in the system to maintain the many important services that an ocean ecosystem can produce — including the maintenance of biodiversity, tourism value, and fisheries — and to manage fisheries so that fish populations remain at about that level.

The evidence that fish are important regulators of ecosystem processes is particularly strong in coral reefs.  The abundance and variety of fish is one of the most striking aspects of a healthy coral reef.  Some species transport energy and nutrients between seagrass meadows and the reefs.  Grazing fish species on a healthy coral reef keep seaweeds that would otherwise over-grow the reef in check.   Predators regulate populations of prey species, responding to natural variability by adjusting their feeding rates and numbers.  On a healthy reef, many different species occupy each of these niches, and each does their job in a slightly different way.  This enables the reef to resist threats and other changes (like hurricanes) and to recover from very storms or human impacts, within limits of course. Read More »

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