EDFish

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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Five reasons we’re hopeful on World Fisheries Day

The fortunes of people everywhere are inextricably linked to the oceans.  Overfishing remains one of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, but around the world we are seeing incredible progress toward sustainable fishing.

On World Fisheries Day, we wanted to share fives stories from the past year that inspire us:

 

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Science-based management in U.S. fisheries: Progress and the road ahead

In August, I had the honor of being the co-organizer of a symposium at the American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting titled “Ten Years of Science-Based management in U.S. Fisheries: Progress and the Road Ahead” with my colleague Jake Kritzer.  A distinguished group of eight speakers joined us to present papers on topics ranging from the evolution of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to the benefits that science-based management has yielded for Alaskan fisheries, and discuss how the Act has performed and how to tackle the challenges that remain with fisheries scientists and managers from across the country and globe.

Speakers included scientists, managers, and a commercial fisherman and covered a geographic range from Florida to Alaska.  Some of the speakers approached the subject with experience that extended back to well into the previous versions of the Act.

The consensus could be best summed up by one a point made by Dr. Mike Sissenwine, a council member of New England Fishery Management Council, early in his presentation: Science-based management has worked.

Overall, the group concluded that the current incarnation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act has greatly improved conservation outcomes.  Since the reauthorization, overfishing has decreased dramatically and a significant number of stocks have been rebuilt.

Our commercial fishing participant, Jason de la Cruz from Florida, noted that the current Act made him feel more confident about the basis of decisions and had led to increased opportunities to collaborate on science.  In Alaska, Diana Evans, deputy director for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, highlighted that fishermen and managers now look beyond the difficult task of setting annual catch limits to new management challenges like ecosystem-based fishery management that can be informed by innovative scientific tools being created for their Fishery Ecosystem Plan. Read More »

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New red snapper proposals need safeguards from overfishing

Lawmakers in the House and Senate recently introduced legislation aimed at the perpetually contentious Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery. Thanks to stronger conservation standards and accountability, red snapper numbers in the Gulf have tripled in the last decade and catch limits have doubled, leading to increased value for commercial fishermen and access for charter and for-hire vessels. Unfortunately, private anglers are stuck under a profoundly broken management system. Congressman Garret Graves, Senator Bill Cassidy and others on Capitol Hill propose to give the Gulf states the chance to manage this specific part of the red snapper fishery.

Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife via flickr: https://flic.kr/p/VjyKem

We share the desire to give private anglers more flexibility and certainty in their fishing opportunities, and states are already innovating under current law, such as the LA Creel program in Louisiana. The new bills (H.R. 3588 and S. 1686) have improved significantly from similar attempts last Congress. But without further safeguards, they threaten to take us back to the failures of the past, when the fishery was severely depleted and red snapper was hard to find for seafood consumers and anglers alike.

The current proposals would give the five Gulf States authority to manage the private angler portion of the red snapper fishery in both state and federal waters; commercial and charter/for-hire fishermen would remain under federal management. But because the bills lack provisions to ensure that the private angler sector stays within its quota (after exceeding it nine of the last 12 years), the bills would jeopardize the sustainability of the fishery and undermine the commercial and charter sectors.

Current law requires federal fishery managers to keep every sector – commercial, charter and private angler – within an annual catch limit. If one group exceeds its quota, managers must make adjustments to make up for the overage and prevent it happening in the future to ensure long-term sustainability.

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