EDFish

The remarkable recovery of U.S. fisheries continues

Credit: John Rae

At a time when there is significant concern about the erosion of environmental protections, a new report card from the National Marine Fisheries Service confirms that one of the most important conservation success stories of our time remains on track. The turnaround of U.S. fisheries is a remarkable bipartisan success story. This week’s annual Status of U.S. Fisheries report documents how a recovery kick-started during George W. Bush’s time in office, then accelerated under President Obama, held pace during the Trump administration’s first year.

Getting fishery management right is incredibly complex, as illustrated by a history of failure in the United States that spanned decades. Those failures too often deprived saltwater anglers of abundant target stocks, removed local catch from restaurant menus and grocery stores, and created hardship for coastal communities. Yet it is increasingly clear that the United States has now built many of the laws, regulations and institutions needed to meet this complex challenge. If we stay the course, the dividends of our hard-won gains will only grow. Read More »

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West Coast fishermen are having their fish and protecting habitat too

Decisions about protected areas can be contentious. It isn’t often that fishermen and environmentalists find ourselves celebrating new protected areas together, but on the West Coast we’re doing just that.

This week, I had the pleasure of being present as the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to support a collaborative effort to reopen thousands of square miles of previously-closed West Coast fishing grounds, much of it in the Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) while at the same time protecting 140,000 square-miles of highly valuable fish habitat. That’s bigger than the state of New Mexico! Read More »

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We shouldn't ignore these conservation threats in fish bills

This year has featured a flurry of fisheries-oriented bills, many with provisions that threaten to undermine the significant progress the United States has made in reducing overfishing and rebuilding overfished fisheries.  Understandably, much of our attention as conservationists has been on the threats to annual catch limits, accountability, and rebuilding requirements.  But this focus risks missing other aspects of the bills that also threaten conservation without providing any real benefit to commercial fishermen, anglers or seafood consumers.

A closer look at the catch share, reallocation, and exempted fishing permit (EFP) provisions of H.R. 200 and S. 1520 reveals that they would hamstring effective conservation and management.  While controversies, complexities, and pressures have led to a push for action on these bills, in the always-complex world of fisheries management, the provisions discussed below are all risk and no reward. Read More »

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Rotten gets it wrong about New England and catch shares

When we sat down to speak with the producers of Rotten, a new documentary series by Zero Point Zero Production, we were hopeful they would bring a thoughtful perspective to the complex challenge of sustainable fisheries management in New England. Unfortunately, the final product released this month does just the opposite.

Rotten does little to shed new light on the challenges that many players, including fishermen, conservationists and government, have been working together to try and solve. Instead, it perpetuates myths and half-truths about the sector (or “catch share”) management system implemented in the New England groundfish fishery in 2010. Furthermore, it doesn’t even attempt to offer an alternative vision for how to end the tragedy of the commons that drove this fishery—and many hard-working individuals who depend on it—to the brink of ruin. Read More »

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New study highlights benefits of recreational fisheries reform

A new paper published in the current issue of Fisheries Research finds that giving recreational fishing businesses the flexibility to take customers fishing when they want to in exchange for carefully tracking what they catch is a win-win for the environment and the economy. The results of a pilot program show that this added flexibility and accountability enables more fishing trips over a year-round fishing season, higher earnings for businesses, better data collection, adherence to science-based catch limits, and improved conservation of fish populations.

A growing number of commercial fisheries are operating under effective management that provides economic benefits to communities while ensuring fishermen stay within sustainable catch limits and contribute to rebuilding progress. This is good for the environment, the economy, and seafood consumers around the country. But unlike their commercial fishing counterparts, marine recreational fisheries have seen little policy innovation. Instead, they have been stuck in management that relies on season, size, and bag limits, promoting a “race to fish” resulting in even tighter regulations and growing waste of fish populations. The cost of inaction is high, as recreational fisheries are increasingly important to ocean ecosystems and coastal economies. Read More »

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Here’s why new fishing legislation lacks broad support

Update: The bills outlined in this blog were passed by the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources on December 13, 2017. You can read EDF’s full statement here.

In an intensely polarized age, fishery issues have been among the few to stay above the partisan fray on Capitol Hill.  Historically, amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) have proceeded on a virtually consensus basis, with the 2007 reauthorization passing the Senate without a single “no” vote and other relatively minor changes to the law, such as the recent decision to shift management of Dungeness crab to the State of Washington, proceeding with bipartisan support.  In taking this approach, lawmakers are following the lead of user groups, which often overcome legitimate differences on how to approach key issues at the local and regional level. In the past these solutions have followed an overall strategy of science-based management that has sharply reduced overfishing in the United States, fueled the recovery of dozens of depleted species, and enabled higher fishing quotas from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of Alaska. Read More »

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