Selected category: Domestic

Gulf anglers like me are demanding change

EDF Gulf Director, Robert Jones, after a recent fishing trip.

Fishing gets in your blood. As a kid growing up on the Texas coast, I spent as much time as possible on the water. Today, an inordinate amount of my time and treasure goes toward maintaining an offshore boat so I can get my salty fix on weekends. I’m one of millions of Americans for whom fishing is a lifestyle. And I’m part of an overwhelming chorus of Gulf anglers who are sick and tired of the broken way we manage recreational red snapper fishing and are demanding change.

The recovery of red snapper is an incredible opportunity. As the stock has rebounded over the last decade, the total amount of catch available annually has grown from 5 million to 14 million pounds. For seafood businesses and consumers, that has delivered tremendous benefits, increasing the value of the commercial fishery from $37 million to $220 million and making delicious Gulf red snapper available year-round in restaurants and grocery stores.

But it’s an entirely different story on the recreational side. Instead of anglers and recreational fishing businesses throughout the Gulf reaping the benefits of recovery, we are stuck in a downward spiral of recreational management failure. Anglers are catching more and bigger fish in state seasons that have become longer and longer – up to 365 days in Texas. As a result, 81% of angler quota is now caught in state waters meaning federal seasons are getting shorter and shorter – like this year’s original three-day season. This has been suffocating our access to the best offshore fishing grounds.

Then last month, the feds did a complete about-face, opening the floodgates with an “all weekends, all summer” recreational season. The problem with this approach is that it will lead to a massive breach of the very science-based catch limits that have brought red snapper back from the brink. We estimate that under the new 2017 season rules, recreational anglers could take as much as three times their safe limit, jeopardizing the fishery. This is a recipe for repeating the disastrous overfishing of previous decades, and returning to the days when my dad and I could barely find a red snapper on a trip. Today we filed a lawsuit to ensure that doesn’t happen. To be clear, we are not trying to end this year’s recreational season and we don’t think fishermen should have to pay the price for the Commerce Department’s misguided decision.

For us, going to court is about more than preventing a return to overfishing: it’s about breaking the cycle of profound recreational management failure and catalyzing innovative, solutions-oriented reforms.

The good news is there are plenty of smart ideas out there that can achieve conservation goals, improve fisheries data, and give anglers more access and flexibility. For example, headboat captains led a pilot project allowing them to take anglers fishing year-round in exchange for requirements they count and report every fish they catch. Charter operators are implementing new electronic reporting systems that provide managers with data in close to real time. Louisiana’s LA Creel data collection program is an example of states working with anglers to deliver a clearer picture of catch rates and provide opportunities for an expanded state role in management. And there are tools that have long worked for hunters that should be considered in the red snapper fishery to improve angler access.

Now is the moment to build out and scale up these new approaches to how we manage recreational fishing. Working together, we can ensure a healthy red snapper stock, extend the success of our Gulf seafood industry, give anglers flexible access, and ensure that future generations of Americans can enjoy the thrill of catching red snapper.

Robert E. Jones, a lifelong recreational fisherman, was raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is director of Environmental Defense Fund's Gulf of Mexico Oceans program. 

Also posted in Gulf of Mexico, Policy| Comments are closed

Two more rockfish species declared "rebuilt"

Photos: Vicky Okimura

Rapid comebacks mean greater fishing opportunities, more sustainable seafood for U.S. markets

EDF’s Pacific team is pleased to share the news that stocks of both Bocaccio and Darkblotched rockfish have been declared rebuilt on the West Coast, well ahead of schedule. Commercial fishermen – who have worked for years to avoid catching the species – will soon be much freer to harvest them and to supply consumers with these beautiful, delicious, sustainable rockfish.

Previously declared overfished, Bocaccio and Darkblotched are among several species that have been under strict rebuilding plans in recent years.  As such, they’ve been among the “constraining species” that fishermen have intentionally avoided catching since 2011, when the trawl fishery’s quota-based catch share management system was implemented. (Fishermen sought to avoid them prior to 2011 also, but under less effective management systems.) Read More »

Also posted in Pacific, Seafood| Tagged , , | Comments are closed

New fisherman coming to Morro Bay

Kyle Pemberton is a 29-year old fisherman from El Granada, California.  He grew up fishing and crabbing with his father and uncle out of Half Moon Bay, at the southern edge of the San Francisco Bay Area, where he currently resides.  He always showed strong math and mechanical skills, and considered studying engineering, but fishing proved too strong a pull.  He crewed for several years, working his way up to alternate captain on Steve Fitz’s boat, the F/V Mr. Morgan, using the unique and light-touch Scottish seine gear.

With a California Fisheries Fund loan, Kyle purchased the successful trawler F/V Moriah Lee, and is soon pulling up roots to move a four-hour drive down the coast to Morro Bay to trawl for West Coast groundfish, including Dover sole, Chilipepper rockfish, Petrale sole, and thornyheads.  He is leasing quota from the Morro Bay Community Quota Fund, a nonprofit created to prevent historic trawl fishing activity from consolidating into larger fishing vessels and ports, securing rights to the groundfish resource locally.  Anchoring groundfish access in small scale fishing ports such as Morro Bay is critical to the economic viability of these communities.

“I am excited for the opportunity to work with the Morro Bay Community Quota Fund and become part of the groundfish fleet,” he told CFF. “I am very thrilled to establish my new home and become part of the Morro Bay community.”

Read More »

Also posted in Pacific| Tagged , , | Comments are closed

There's nothing modern about overfishing

A recently-filed bill with the upbeat title “The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act,” H.R. 2023, would unfortunately do just the opposite.  By gutting one of the most important improvements of modern fisheries law, we believe that this bill would move us backwards to a time of widespread overfishing. Read More »

Also posted in Policy| Tagged , , , , | Comments are closed

Fishing gear innovations creating great results for fish, fishermen and habitat

Trawl gear modifications produce reductions in bycatch, fuel use and seafloor contact – all with increased catching efficiency.

Over the past couple of years EDF’s Pacific team has been privileged to work with fishermen, scientists, fishing net manufacturers and many others on a three-stage project to demonstrate the feasibility of improved trawl net designs on the West Coast. The video shown here describes the amazing progress we’ve made together and indicates a path-forward for disseminating our results to fishermen everywhere.

Read More »

Also posted in Pacific, Science/Research| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

New wave of Electronic Monitoring projects in U.S. fisheries highlighted at national workshop

emThe second national electronic monitoring workshop was held in Seattle, Washington late last year. Hosted by NOAA Fisheries, the goal was to bring together fisheries monitoring and management experts to share what’s working in EM implementation projects, what’s not, and to develop solutions and paths forward.

The workshop was also a celebration of significant progress taking place. Since the first national workshop held in January 2014, there has been a large scale EM regulatory program implemented in the Atlantic HMS fishery and regulations authorizing EM programs developed through Regional exempted fishing permit and cooperative research projects are scheduled for implementation in 2017 and 2018 in several different fisheries around the country.

These new programs all provide examples of one or more ‘best practices’ for EM, such as user-centered design approaches, clear goals established at the outset, and consistent collaboration among stakeholders. Read More »

Also posted in Pacific| Tagged , , | Comments are closed
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