Category Archives: EDF Staff Profiles

Why growing up in Sweden gave me hope for the future of our oceans

AndreaA friend of mine recently asked me, ‘Why do you work on fisheries?’

I began to talk about how fisheries is the ultimate tragedy of the commons problem, an economic term coined by Garett Hardin in the 1960s which explains how individuals act in their individual best interest rather than do what is best long term for the group. I talked about how governments are challenged by managing shared natural resources and how this is even more complex with ocean fisheries since we do not see the fish disappear beneath the surface.

That long and “technical” answer may be part of the reason, but it doesn’t fully explain why I do what I do. The real answer is much simpler. I love our oceans. I have spent all my summers on an island on the Swedish west coast called Koster, where the water is clear and full of life. And I grew up in Stockholm – a city surrounded by water. I took my diving license at age 16, as soon as I was allowed, even though this meant training and doing my final dives in February on the east coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea, with sub-zero temperatures and visibility of less than a meter. Read More »

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EDF's Chief Oceans Scientist, Doug Rader, Works to Protect North Carolina's Coastal Waters for "People and Critters"

Dr. Doug Rader, Chief Oceans Scientist - EDF Oceans

Dr. Doug Rader, Chief Oceans Scientist - EDF Oceans

This weekend Science and Technology reporter for The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer, Tyler Dukes,  wrote about Dr. Doug Rader's work to protect North Carolina's costal waters.  In addition to being EDF's Chief Oceans Scientist, Dr. Rader also sits on the North Carolina Governor's Scientific Advisory Panel on Offshore Energy, which will release its final report next month on the state's coastal energy resources.

In the article, Dukes shares how Dr. Rader has spent his career helping to shape coastal policy that addresses the needs of both marine life and fishermen, as well as others who rely on the ocean for their livelihoods. As Dr. Rader puts it — policy that works for both "people and critters."

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An Interview with Amanda Leland, National Policy Director of Environmental Defense Fund's Oceans Program

Amanda Leland, EDF's National Policy Director for the Oceans Program, is a passionate environmental and policy specialist working to protect and offer innovative solutions to the nation's oceans and fisheries. Learn more about her experience and background in our series of interviews with EDF's passionate and talented Oceans staff.


Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans Program - National Policy Director

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans Program - National Policy Director

Where did you grow up?


Near Plymouth, Massachusetts. My ancestors actually came here on the Mayflower.

Who introduced you to fishing?

My great-grandfather was a lobster fisherman in Manomet, Massachusetts. He passed his love of fishing on to my grandfather who always took me out on the water to fish for striped bass and bluefish.  He taught me how to captain his 24’ boat when I was 8 years old. I loved the ocean. If I wasn’t on his boat, I was at the beach.

When did you become interested in environmental issues?

I've always been interested in the environment. For example, my 7th grade science fair project was about how much trash could be recycled. I became an EDF member when I was thirteen, and I paid my annual dues with my birthday money.

At one point you were studying to be a marine biologist, is that correct?

Yes, I got my Master’s in Marine Biology at the University of Maine. Before that, I did a year-long marine biology program when I was a junior in college. Our time was split between Boston, the Puget Sound and Jamaica. We were in the water a lot and I had my first scuba-diving experience in Friday Harbor, Washington. I’ve now logged 500 dives!

Also when I was in graduate school, I was researching how to bring back Maine’s sea urchin population. Sea urchins were once Maine’s 2nd most valuable fishery but overfishing changed that. I worked with a team of fishermen to hand collect and move 54,000 sea urchins to our study sites. In the process we all got so many splinters from the urchin spines, we started carrying tweezers. Still, we all enjoyed the work. A fisherman once said to me, “You got me to work 15 hours today and I didn’t even notice it.”

What made you decide to work on policy versus being in the field as a biologist?

Several sea urchin fishermen I met told me, “If I don’t catch the last sea urchin someone else will.” There’s such finality in that statement. I decided I wanted to try to improve management so that fishermen aren’t forced to choose between conserving the resource and feeding their kids. We have to reward fishermen for restoring fisheries.

What do you do at Environmental Defense Fund?

I lead a team focused on improving fisheries management at the federal level. We work with Congress and the Administration to move conservation policy forward. We were very happy to see NOAA announce a policy to help more fisheries move to catch shares, an innovative way to manage fisheries that will help bring back depleted fish populations and make fishermen once again profitable.

The way we’re fishing now is not sustainable and the way we are managing fishing is not working. Something has got to give. With catch shares, we can have vibrant fishing communities and healthy fisheries at the same time.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I have bottle-fed walruses. When I was in high school and college, I worked at the Indianapolis Zoo as a marine mammal zookeeper. I took care of the polar bears, baby walruses and sea lions. I sorted through hundreds of pounds of fish every morning to get their food ready.

Another thing people don’t know about me is that I once ate 5 pounds of lobster in one sitting on a dare. I love seafood.

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An Interview with Rod Fujita, EDF Senior Scientist and Director of Ocean Innovations

In continuing with our spotlight on EDF's passionate and talented Oceans staff, we invite you to learn a little more about Dr. Rod Fujita, EDF Senior Scientist and Director of Oceans Innovations as well as Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment.

Rod Fujita, EDF Senior Scientist & Director of Oceans Innovations

Rod Fujita, EDF Senior Scientist & Director of Oceans Innovations

Where did you go to college?

I studied biology and math at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. I later got a Ph.D. in marine ecology from Boston University’s Marine Program, at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Tell me about your experience in the field doing hands-on research.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the field, including the kelp forests of California, the salt marshes and estuaries of New England, the rocky shores of Oregon, and coral reefs around the world.  A highlight was back in the late 1980s when I camped out at an isolated lighthouse about five miles off of Key Largo in the Florida Keys to study Carysfort Reef.

I had a power generator to operate my equipment and would stay out there for a few weeks at a time periodically over the course of a year. I dove and snorkeled in the reef several times a day, eventually spending hundreds of hours underwater to study what caused different types of algae to grow in the coral reef.

You were one of the first advocates to propose that mass coral bleaching is a result of climate change, is that correct?

In the late-1980s several scientists began to notice a strange pattern of coral bleaching. My colleague Dr. Tom Goreau and I looked at global temperature patterns and noticed a high correlation between hot spots in the ocean (just one or two degrees Celsius warmer than surrounding waters) and bleaching.  We also noticed a correlation between unusually hot years and unusually severe bleaching, so we made the case that bleaching was indeed global and could be related to climate change.  When my EDF colleague Mark Epstein and I presented the findings at a meeting of scientists in Berkeley, we were criticized by just about everyone there. It wasn’t until many years later that we were vindicated.

What are some other highlights of your 20 year career at EDF and as a founding member of the organization’s oceans program?

I was able to contribute to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and raise awareness among the general public as well as among the negotiators of the Framework Convention on Climate Change about the impacts of climate change on coral reefs, mangroves, and other ocean ecosystems.

EDF’s Doug Rader and I were two of the first environmentalists to advocate for marine protected areas, way back in the late 1980s. I helped establish the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and marine protected areas in the Channel Islands and off the coast of California as well. 

Another highlight was the excitement of learning about a solution to overfishing from EDF economists Zach Willey and Dan Dudek when I first started at EDF in 1988: catch shares.  It’s great to see catch shares catch on, especially after having to endure heavy criticism and opposition for years.

How did you come to support catch share management for fisheries?

When Doug Hopkins, Doug Rader, and I founded EDF’s oceans program in 1990, we identified overfishing as the number one threat to marine biodiversity. The traditional way of managing fisheries has too often failed either ecosystems, fishermen, or both and needs major surgery, not minor fixes. In the ‘90s, we started reviewing various proposals for fixing the system.  Zach and Dan persuaded us to study catch shares, which many economists had been advocating for a long time and which several countries had already adopted.  After an exhaustive review of the scientific literature, we concluded that catch shares could transform the way fisheries are managed and greatly improve their conservation and economic performance.

Catch shares work because they align stewardship with economic incentives and require fishermen to be accountable for their catch. Fishermen are rewarded when the fish populations rebound by being able to catch more fish.  In conventional fisheries management, fishermen are given the incentive to race to catch as much fish as fast as possible and are forced to throw tons of wasted, dead fish overboard.

You’ve been appointed to many advisory panels and committees over the course of your career. Can you name a few?

I served on the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee, three committees for the Pacific Fishery Management Council, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s West Coast Advisory Committee on Individual Transferable Quotas for fish harvest privileges. I’ve had the opportunity to testify in Congress several times and was a consultant to the EPA Science Advisory Board for the Alaskan Oil Spill Bioremediation Project.

What are people surprised to learn about you?

That I play guitar and bass in a rock band.  People are also surprised to learn that I once hosted Barbara Streisand – a huge EDF supporter – on a tour of the award-winning EDF/American Museum of Natural History exhibition on climate change that I helped design.

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An Interview with Julie Wormser, New England and Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for EDF's Oceans Program

EDF's Oceans program team is comprised of knowledgeable people with a wide range of experience in fisheries, marine sciences and oceans policy. In continuing with our spotlight on EDF's passionate and talented Oceans staff, we invite you to learn a little more about our New England and Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, Julie Wormser.

Julie Wormser, New England & Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.

Julie Wormser, New England & Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.

Where are you from?

 I was born in Salem and have lived in Massachusetts all but a few years of my life. I grew up three blocks from the ocean in Marblehead and as a kid played among the now-gone fishing shacks near Fort Sewall.  I grew up with two brothers and multiple official and unofficial foster kids my parents took in to live with us. My mom was kind of a freelance social worker before she finally became one for real when I was in high school.

What did you study in college?

I started out studying forestry and agriculture at Sterling College in northern Vermont.  I finished up my bachelor's degree in biology at Swarthmore College.  Just a few years ago I went back to school to get a Masters in Public Administration at the Kennedy School of Government.

What do you do at Environmental Defense Fund?

I manage the Oceans program for the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions. I lead a team of tremendously talented, thoughtful people with backgrounds in marine biology, public policy, law, business and communications. The team is focused on making sure catch shares are designed and set up well. We work predominantly with New England fishermen and fishery managers to find out what goals are most important to them. We organize fishermen’s exchanges with colleagues in other regions so they can work with their peers on identifying successful policy options to achieve their goals.

EDF studies the nearly three hundred catch shares currently in operation worldwide and works to bring those lessons learned back to New England. For example, we are supporting efforts by the New England Fishery Management Council to protect small-scale fishermen and smaller ports by placing accumulation caps on groundfish species to limit the amount of quota any individual can hold.  We’d also like to see more explicit ownership requirements put on quota so that the benefits of the catch shares stay within New England fishing communities.

What is something you’ve done at EDF that you are really proud of?

It’s a really tough time for many groundfish fishermen in New England right now. Half the fleet has gone under since the late 1990s under current regulations.  Now, just as fishermen are working to learn how to fish under a new catch share system called “sectors,” the amount of fish they are allowed to catch is being reduced significantly.

My team spends most of our time working to reduce costs and improve revenues for New England fishermen who are transitioning to catch shares.  We have been helping some groundfish sectors with business planning to improve their bottom lines during the next few years while annual catch limits are low.  We also spend a lot of time in Washington lobbying for federal funding to cover the costs of transitioning to catch shares.  The Obama Administration’s budget for 2011 contains nearly $23 million for the New England groundfish industry; we want to make sure that funding makes it all the way through the federal budget process so that it can directly support fishermen’s jobs next year as they navigate the transition to sectors.

If catch shares are so effective, then why is there controversy surrounding their implementation?

The truth is that fishermen, managers and non-profit conservation groups agree on a lot more than you would think. You have to compare catch shares to the alternatives.  The current system of days-at-sea and daily trip limits in New England has been a failure.  Other regions have more often used hard catch limits without allocations; this invariably leads to dangerous, wasteful derby fisheries.  We have decades of experience with alternatives to catch shares:  more closures, more fluctuations in harvest levels, lower trip limits, more bycatch and ultimately fewer jobs.

Any management system needs to be designed well and catch shares are no different.    Groundfishermen and agency staff have worked incredibly hard over the last year to get sectors ready to go on May 1st.  Everyone recognizes that there’s more work to do to improve the system once it’s up and running.  But we’ve checked in repeatedly with sector managers over the last year and hear again and again that they’d rather keep moving forward under sectors than have to continue to fish under days-at-sea another year.

Aren’t there already catch shares in New England?

Although groundfish sectors are by far getting the most attention and resources, approximately five percent of the sea scallop industry just started fishing under a catch share as of March 1st.  Groundfish sectors arose out of a smaller industry initiative in Cape Cod that was approved in 2003. 

Over the last few years, the number of state and federal fisheries moving to catch shares has significantly increased.  Rhode Island, for example, adopted a pilot sector for summer flounder that started operating in 2009.  The results were excellent—the sector stayed under their total allowable catch, they spent less and made more than they had for the same harvest in past years, and they had almost no bycatch and remained fishing throughout the year while the rest of the fleet had considerably higher bycatch and was shut down in the summer. 

This year twice the number of fishermen petitioned the state to be included in the summer flounder sector as last year.  One Rhode Island fisherman remarked on how fun it was to fish because he finally got to use his knowledge and skills to sometimes-avoid, sometimes-target summer flounder depending on his own business strategy: “It put a spring back in my step.”

What’s something that piques people’s interest when they hear it about you?

I have a twin brother who is nearly a foot taller than I am.  My mother’s family has lived in New England for almost 400 years.  I don’t have any depth perception; I regularly accidentally bump into my poor husband and daughter.

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An Interview with EDF’s Chief Oceans Scientist, Doug Rader

EDF's Oceans program team is comprised of knowledgeable people with a wide range of experience in fisheries, marine sciences and oceans policy. In continuing with our spotlight on EDF's passionate and talented Oceans staff, we invite you to learn a little more about our Chief Oceans Scientist, Dr. Doug Rader.

EDF Cheif Oceans Scientist, Doug Rader

EDF Chief Oceans Scientist, Dr. Doug Rader

Where is your family from?

My father’s and mother’s families have lived in North Carolina as long as anyone can remember.  I grew up in Charlotte as a middle child between two brothers.

What made you so interested in the oceans? 

I’ve always been fascinated by nature. When I was a kid, my family went tent camping for weeks every summer on what was then a really isolated part of North Myrtle Beach.  My mom would wake us up long before sunrise to be the first to discover what the sea had brought in: starfish, sea urchins and seaweed. Back at home, I spent my free time wading creeks, searching for snakes, crawfish and turtles. As cliché as it sounds, watching “Sea Hunt,” and “Flipper” propelled a life-long interest in underwater exploration. Recently my wife and I spent 30 minutes “up close and personal” with a whale while scuba diving.

What did you study in college?

I got my Bachelor’s Degree in 1977 from UNC Chapel Hill. I followed with a Masters focusing on Marine Biology from the University of Washington. Then, I got my Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina in Biology, focusing on the ecology of salt marshes. I was studying worms of various types that were so small you had to dye them red to see them under the microscope!

Weren’t you a teacher at one point?

I was hired the day before school started in fall 1984, to be a science and math teacher at the high school in Siler City, North Carolina. I loved it. I also taught Sunday school back when my kids were young.

Where did you work after you left teaching?

After finishing school, I realized I knew a lot about animals and plants, but not much about how ecosystems are managed.  To fill that gap, I worked for North Carolina’s Division of Coastal Management, and then the Division of Environmental Management, focusing on water quality and other coastal resource issues. I was later the first director of the program to save the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary, one of the largest in the U.S. Much of my time there was spent coming to understand fisheries and fishermen.

What have you done at EDF that you are really proud of?

I led a team that analyzed every square mile of US oceans to come up with recommendations for sites that were designated by George W. Bush as marine national monuments. It was a great honor to help preserve some of the most precious areas of the ocean.

Also, for the past ten years, I have chaired the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s panel that’s developing a comprehensive plan for the ocean ecosystem in the region. As part of the plan, we recently announced that more than 23,000 square miles of unmatched deep-sea corals will be preserved. We made sure the corals were protected, but also are allowing fishermen access to certain fishing areas as long as they use gear that won’t damage the coral habitat.

I spent many years helping protect Southeast wetlands and estuaries, which are so important as habitat for fish, birds and many other animals. Our team used a successful lawsuit and a public-private partnership with Weyerhaeuser to plug a major loophole that allowed wetlands to be destroyed while installing pine tree farms, the biggest threat in the region. A similar partnership with Texas-Gulf Inc. cut pollution into the major fish nurseries of the Pamlico River from one of the largest fertilizer complexes in the world by more than 85%. 

We also stopped then-Vice President Dan Quayle from drastically changing the definition of wetlands, which would have meant that many of the nation’s most important wetlands would lose their protection.

What’s something many people don’t know about you?

My main hobby is historical archeology, blending work in musty archives with time in the field to find colonial and Native American sites. I got started when I spotted a bunch of American Indian spear points and wondered why they were there. I’ve now found and registered hundreds of Native American archeological sites in North Carolina. I’ve also now discovered the site of a long-lost Quaker Church, called Contentnea Meeting, active when Lord Cornwallis British Army marched right by on the way to Yorktown in 1781.

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An Interview with Kate Bonzon, EDF's Senior Manager of the Catch Shares Design Center

Passionate. Dedicated. Those words describe each of the professionals in the Oceans program at Environmental Defense Fund. Our team is comprised of knowledgeable people with a wide range of experience in fisheries, marine sciences and oceans policy. This series of interviews with some of our staff offers a look into their backgrounds and work in oceans conservation and fisheries management.

Kate Bonzon, EDF Director of Design Advisory ServicesKate, what do you do at EDF?

I manage the Catch Shares Design Center, which helps communities and fishery managers identify the best options as they are designing catch shares.

Catch shares aren’t one-size fits all, and should be tailored to each fishery. There have been hundreds of catch shares implemented across the globe. Most have been very successful. It’s our job to look at what works, what doesn’t and share that knowledge with communities that are getting ready to transition to catch shares. I’ve spent the last year and a half working on the Catch Shares Design Manual, which lays out a roadmap of how to develop a catch share program and the various options that are available. 

I also serve as a matchmaker between the communities and fishery managers designing catch shares and the experts who are involved in successful catch shares and have a great deal of experience to draw from, like fishermen, scientists, economists and fishery managers worldwide.

What were you doing at EDF before you started working on catch shares?

One of my first assignments was to interview fishermen up and down the West Coast to gather and incorporate their valuable knowledge, such as important spawning areas, into policy discussions. When I talked to the fishermen, it was clear that traditional fishing regulations were working against them as they struggled to provide for their families and be good stewards of the oceans. I see catch shares as how we can bring back our fisheries and also keep fishermen out on the water.

Didn’t you help get loans for fishermen interested in conservation?

Yes. I helped establish the California Fisheries Fund which gives fishermen low-interest loans to move to sustainable fishing practices. I helped raise $5 million dollars for the fund, including $2 million from the State. I got to know many fishermen through that effort, including one who still regularly invites me to family dinners where he serves the delicious Dungeness crab he catches.

What did you study in school?

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and decided to stay close to home for school, so I went to Stanford for both undergrad and grad school. My Masters degree is in Earth Systems with a focus on marine conservation. I spent a few months at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey on boats and underwater studying the marine life there.

Why did you decide to work on fishery issues?

Every summer when I was a kid my family visited relatives on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound of Washington state. We went crabbing and clamming all the time. Being on the water was paradise for me. Years later in college I jumped at the chance to take a class on fisheries and it really showed me just how solvable many of the problems facing fisheries are. I decided to apply for an internship at EDF’s oceans program and I’m still here years later.  

What don’t most people know about you?

I love planning parties for my friends and family. I’ve thrown more birthday parties, engagement parties and baby showers than I can count. Most people don’t know that I love open water swimming. I swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco in 40 minutes, and I’m training to swim 3 miles with my mom in Donner Lake in the Sierras near Tahoe.

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