Category Archives: Catch Shares

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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A new dawn for Pacific whiting fishery

photo credit: willapalens via photopin cc

photo credit: willapalens via photopin cc

Yesterday, a federal court in California upheld the parameters that govern what fishing history is used to set allocations in the Pacific whiting fishery, one sector of the West Coast Groundfish IFQ Program

The decision in the Pacific Dawn litigation on pacific whiting quota share allocation is a win for the fishery and fishermen alike, and protects the integrity of management changes designed to provide for the long-term health of the fishery.

Control dates are established by NOAA to alert fishermen that fishing activity after the control date may not be taken into account when quota allocation decisions are made. As EDF legal staff argued at the hearing in early November, control dates are used to determine historic participation in the fishery, and help fishery managers allocate quota fairly amongst fishermen with a stake in the fishery.  If fishery participants believe that the control dates will not be adhered to, they have an incentive to fish harder and more often as a catch share plan is considered, exacerbating overcapitalization just as managers are moving to reduce it.

Overturning the control dates would have destabilized the fishery at the same time the new management system is producing tremendous benefits.

In 2011, the first year of the Pacific Groundfish catch share program  West Coast whiting fishermen landed 40% more fish than in 2010 and earned more than twice their average profit in the past (2011 NOAA Report). Already a low-bycatch fishery, in 2011 the whiting fleet bycatch of rebuilding groundfish decreased by almost 100% in some species. Although the 2012 whiting quota was lower than 2011 (which had been a banner year), the whiting fishery continued its trend toward extremely low bycatch (2012 NOAA Report).

The court’s decision keeps the fishery on the path to environmental and economic success and protects control dates as an important tool to prevent further overcapitalization as catch shares are developed.  The court’s decision also aligned with the opinion of many groundfish fishermen and processors who have testified in support of the catch share program and would have suffered if the control date had been struck down. Read the full decision here.

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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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Setting aside space provides room for innovation

By Sarah Poon

Territorial Use Rights for Fishing, or TURFs, have been in place for centuries in fishing communities around the world.  In a TURF, fishery participants have a secure, exclusive privilege to fish in a defined area.  Many fishery policy experts view TURFs and catch share programs as separate options for managing fisheries. TURFs are a type of catch share, since the area-based privileges assigned under a TURF provide the same rewards for stewardship as quota-based privileges.

In recent decades fishery managers have channeled the historical successes of this approach by formally recognizing customary TURFs, applying them to more fisheries and experimenting  with modern adaptations.

Community-based territorial rights that have existed for centuries are now formally recognized by national law in Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Palau.  Empowered by national law promoting traditional community-based management, the Safata District of Samoa implemented a district-wide TURF in 2000.  Bylaws developed by the community manage members’ fishing efforts and limit outsiders’ access.  Safata’s leaders have further improved biological performance by establishing a network of no-take reserves.  With a formalized role in management, the district has received strong community support, high regulatory compliance and increased abundance for important species.

TURF systems have been used in different types of fisheries, but they are particularly well-suited for managing near shore fisheries where there is a clear spatial range of fishing activity. While these systems are ideal for less mobile species that don’t move beyond TURF boundaries, they can also be designed for more mobile species.

In Mexico, fishermen are benefitting immensely from the Baja California Regional Federation of Fishing Cooperative Societies (FEDECOOP). Under the federation, 13 fishing Cooperatives from 10 villages manage Baja spiny lobster, abalone, and other species in 10 area-based concessions or TURFs. By coordinating management across a network of TURFs, FEDECOOP has served as a model for sustainable fisheries management. The fishery was awarded Marine Stewardship Council certification in 2004, making it the first small-scale fishery in a developing country to receive accreditation.  The system has incentivized fishermen to protect stocks and many Cooperatives have even implemented voluntary no-take zones, allowing fish populations to recover more quickly and the oceans ecosystems to become more resilient to change.

Across the world, the Japanese Common Fishing Rights System is a model for managing nearshore species—including more mobile species—through a coordinated system of co-management. Japan’s program, formally established in 1949 when Fishery Cooperative Associations (FCAs) were granted TURFs, spans most of the nation’s coastline and includes more than 1,000 FCAs. Under the TURF system, FCAs are responsible for the day-to-day management of coastal fisheries.  Fishery management organizations (FMOs) have also emerged to improve management by promoting collaboration between fishermen targeting certain species or using certain gear types, often including fishermen from multiple FCAs. Innovation is an outcome of the TURF system, and fishermen within and between Cooperatives have agreed to pool effort, costs, knowledge and revenues to increase profits and improve stock conditions.

These are just a few examples of fisheries that are successfully using TURFs to manage their resources. Below you will find links to additional examples of how fisheries have designed TURFs to meet biological, economic and social goals.  A step-by-step guide to designing TURFs can be found here. To access our full fisheries toolkit click here.

Mexican Vigía Chico Cooperative Spiny Lobster Territorial Use Rights for Fishing Program

The most productive fishing Cooperative in the Mexican-Caribbean since 1982, this area-based catch share program has steadied the Punta Allen lobster catch while ensuring access to community members.

Chilean National Benthic Resources Territorial Use Rights for Fishing Program

Among the largest area-based catch share programs in the world, the Chilean TURF system includes more than 17,000 artisanal fishermen and co-manages more than 550 distinct areas along the coast.

Spanish Galicia Goose Barnacle Cofradía System

The Galician goose barnacle fishery’s integration of traditional fishing guilds, provision of secure and exclusive fishing areas and use of an on-site fisheries ecologist have established one of the most successful models of fisheries co-management in Spain.

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Cooperation beats competition

By Sarah Poon

Whether in school, at work, or at play, we’ve all experienced the value of working collectively to achieve a common goal.  Many fisheries around the world are successfully managed by providing a structure for collaboration between fishermen via Cooperative catch shares.

In a Cooperative catch share, one or more groups of fishing participants, or “Cooperatives”, are allocated a secure portion of the catch or a dedicated fishing area.  In exchange, they are responsible for accepting certain management responsibilities.  Many fishing communities around the world have traditionally managed their coastal resources cooperatively, leveraging their local knowledge and relationships to achieve common goals.  Recognizing the success of this approach, many fisheries are building upon this traditional practice, while also adapting to the realities of today’s increasingly global fishery markets.

There are hundreds of Cooperatives around the world.  They have formed in different ways and have various functions and capacities.  But when it comes to their ability to manage fisheries, they share a common (perhaps obvious) theme: Cooperatives work best when people cooperate.  Cooperatives have demonstrated that fishermen working together (often hand-in-hand with fishery managers) can improve fishery science, tailor management to local conditions, increase profits and respond to complex management challenges such as discarding and habitat impacts.

Perhaps the most famous example of a well-functioning Cooperative is the United States Bering Sea and Aleutian Island (BSAI) Crab Rationalization Program which is featured on the popular television program, The Deadliest Catch.  Prior to Cooperative implementation, fishermen competed with one another in an intense and dangerous race to fish, resulting in overcapitalization, overfishing and unsafe work conditions.  Now, under the BSAI Crab Rationalization Program, fishermen are assigned a secure share of the annual catch, and they collaborate rather than compete by sharing information and working together to increase the productivity of their businesses. Because the season is longer and there is no race to fish, fishermen can go out when the weather is fair, avoiding deadly situations.

In the Galicia region of northwestern Spain, artisanal fishermen have worked together for centuries in traditional fishing guilds or “cofradías” to manage the goose barnacle fishery.  However, inadequate fishery science and a rise in demand for this traditional culinary delicacy led to a near collapse of the fishery.  Recognizing the management potential of the cofradías, the Galician fisheries ministry granted exclusive harvesting privileges—also known as Territorial Use Rights for Fishing (TURFs)—to the traditional fishing guilds.  In turn, the cofradías develop annual fishery management plans, participate in monitoring, and ensure sustainable harvest by their members. By working together in their cofradías and alongside fishery managers, fishermen have helped drive the recovery of the goose barnacle population and stabilized profits.

These are just two examples of many fisheries around the world in which a secure stake in the fishery has empowered groups of fishermen to participate in responsible management.  Additional stories of fisheries transformed through a Cooperative catch share approach can be found below and as part of our comprehensive fisheries toolkit.  Two new guides provide step-by-step guidance to designing Cooperative catch shares, including one for quota-based programs and one for Territorial Use Rights for Fishing.

Japanese Common Fishing Rights System

This program is a model for managing mobile nearshore species through a coordinated system of co-management between federal and regional governments and local fishermen organizations.

Mexican Vigía Chico Cooperative Spiny Lobster Territorial Use Rights for Fishing Program

The most productive fishing Cooperative in the Mexican-Caribbean since 1982, this area-based fishery management program has steadied the Punta Allen lobster catch while most other areas declined.

United States Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Non-Pollock (Amendment 80) Cooperative Program

A great example of a cooperative catch share, this program ended the race to fish, drastically reduced bycatch rates, and allows slower and more targeting harvesting by fishermen.

United States Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Cooperative Program

Launched as a pilot in 2007, the successful rockfish management program was extended for ten years in 2011 years with some key design changes to improve upon the original program design.

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Maximizing Limited Data to Improve Fishery Management

By Ashley Apel

According to a recent study published in Science, nearly 80% of the world’s catch comes from “data-limited” fisheries.  Not surprisingly, research shows that many of these fisheries are facing collapse, jeopardizing the food security of hundreds of millions of people in developing countries who depend on seafood for a majority of their dietary protein.

Historically, fisheries with little data had few science-based management options. But new methods are being continuously developed and used in the field that deliver science-based results, even in the absence of long-term, historical catch data. Since fishery stock assessments can be extremely complex, EDF recently developed a user-friendly, six-step framework as part of an overall guide to Science-Based Management of Data-Limited Fisheries.

The framework outlines a systematic approach that fishery managers can use to conduct quick and relatively inexpensive assessments.  The methods allow stakeholders in data-limited fisheries to estimate risks to marine ecosystems, determine vulnerability of a stock to fishing pressure, calculate the level of overfishing, assess the sustainability of the fishery, and establish sustainable fishing targets and other management reference points.  

Download the guide on Science-Based Management of Data-Limited Fisheries or download the entire toolkit for fisheries.  Feel free to send questions or comments to catchsharequestions@edf.org.

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New management plan continues to yield conservation & economic benefits in Pacific groundfishery: NOAA report

fishery observer

WCGOP Observer
Photo Credit: NOAA Report, supplied by Sean Sullivan

On September 24, NOAA Fisheries released their report on the second year (2012) of the West Coast Groundfish Catch Shares Program, a program that EDF has been instrumental in helping to develop, implement and improve. The report notes the spirit of partnership that helped bring a catch share management system to the Pacific Coast, and praises the program's conservation and economic performance. Mostly, however, NOAA credits fishermen for using the flexibility afforded under catch shares to improve their long-term economic prospects and avoid overfished species.

 

 

Here are some highlights:

  • Conservation: The report notes “a significant reduction in the amount of bycatch,” of overfished species, and concludes that the program “is actively rebuilding several groundfish stocks.”
  • Catch: Harvest of target stocks continues to improve—up 5% from 2011.
  • Business Flexibility: Transfers of quota between fishermen increased dramatically in comparison with 2011, and were relatively constant throughout the year. This increase indicates better understanding among fishermen of how to leverage their allotment for efficient business planning.

NOAA’s report also reflects the strong and growing interest among West Coast fishery stakeholders in transitioning from 100% observer coverage on groundfish boats to lower cost alternatives, like cameras, that will still ensure 100% accountability for all catch.

The West Coast catch shares program is still a work in progress, but NOAA’s analysis is very encouraging.

“The report from the second year reinforces what we’re seeing. There are a lot of positive things happening that provide a solid foundation for building on,” said Shems Jud, Deputy Director of EDF’s Pacific Ocean team. “By working with fishermen now to help lower their operating costs and expand fishing opportunity, we think this program can be made durable for the long-term, and eventually turn into a real economic success story.”

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Sharing the catch means more for everyone

It may seem counter-intuitive that sharing the catch yields more fish and economic benefits for fishermen and coastal communities, but that is exactly what catch shares are proven to do.

NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) recently released its first national report assessing the economic performance of catch share programs in the United States. This report further validates the findings outlined in a 2011 Marine Policy Paper,  “Assessing Catch Shares’ effects evidence from Federal United States and associated British Columbian Fisheries (Grimm et. al),  which examined 15 catch share programs in the U.S and British Columbia before and after catch share implementation.

While these two studies differ slightly in selected fisheries, variables and time frame, they both conclude that catch shares consistently outperform conventional management systems across the board. Graduating to catch shares yields a robust return on investment: longer seasons, fewer risks, higher revenues, less waste and more full time jobs. An overview of the findings from Grimm et al. is presented in the table below.

[Chart summarizing catch share benefits. Data adapted from Grimm et.al ]

NMFS’ research surveyed 14 US catch share fisheries, finding economic and management improvements resulting in increased compliance with regulations, greater fishing revenues, and safer fishing conditions. According to the executive summary, “Overall, these programs were successful in having fishermen observe quota limits, improving overall economic benefits and efficiency, and ending the race to fish, thereby reducing pressure on fishermen to fish during unsafe conditions.”

 

Catch shares lead to increased compliance with catch limits:

Catch limits are target harvest levels designed to maintain or rebuild the size of fish stocks to productive levels. A primary challenge of any fishery management approach is in ensuring catch limits are not exceeded each year. The NMFS study found that catch shares nearly eliminated overages when compared to more conventional approaches like season lengths or trip limits.  Limits were exceeded only twice in the study period under catch shares. Furthermore, for those fisheries in which landings had previously exceeded quota, such as in North Pacific Halibut, the adoption of catch shares reversed this trend. This confirms findings from Grimm et. al, which showed that catch limits were rarely exceeded and by small amounts, compared to frequent and large overages under traditional management.  Increased compliance with regulation maintains fish stock or rebuilds them to sustainable levels that will continue to support profitable U.S. fishing businesses.

 

Fishermen earn more in catch share fisheries:

The NMFS study also evaluated revenue per vessel, which increased under catch shares for all fisheries in the long run. While a few fisheries had initial decreases in revenues per vessel due to temporary catch reductions, they soon recovered and revenues increased relative to baseline. These increased revenues are most likely due to increased fish prices; under traditional management, the race to fish results in more frozen fish than fresh sold at the market (hence, lower fish prices and revenue). Furthermore, catch shares increase the flexibility fishermen have to time their harvest to meet market demand, rather than producing a glut of fish caught in a short period of time. This ensures a consistent supply of seafood, and generates more revenue for fishermen. NMFS’ findings support the Grimm et al. paper which found revenue increases of 27% in the first year and 68% after 10 years of the program.

 

Catch shares eliminate the race to fish, which can improve fishing safety:

Fishing is the second deadliest occupation in the U.S. It is inherently dangerous, but management measures can be taken to reduce some of those risks. Longer fishing seasons also improve safety by eliminating the race to fish and allowing fishermen to choose which days to fish during the year, thus avoiding stormy weather and dangerous conditions. The NMFS study found that season length increased in all fisheries under catch shares relative to traditional management; similarly, Grimm et al. concluded that average season length increased from 63 to 245 days per year.

 

Looking forward:

Measuring the outcomes of fishery management practices is vital given the urgent need to identify proven strategies that sustain fish stocks and the livelihoods of fishermen and industries dependent upon them. NMFS findings are a positive step towards understanding the impacts of different regulations in order to bring about data-driven management reform of US fisheries. In future assessments, it will be important for NMFS to assess all approaches—not just catch shares—to build understanding about how to best manage fisheries in an economically beneficial way.

The NMFS study provides strong evidence that catch shares are working. Moving forward, more evaluation and research is needed to guide and inform policymakers of the many benefits of catch shares and how improved design can better meet the needs of a given fishery and fishing community. Many challenges exist in fisheries management, but this report is cause for optimism.

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