Category Archives: Fishermen Voices

Fishermen and Chefs United: Keep Catch Shares On The Table

Left to Right: EDF National Policy Specialist Melissa Carey, Former Senator Slade Gorton III, Former Representative  Robin Tallon & Representative Chellie Pingree.
Photo Credit: David Hills

This week more than 100 fishermen, chefs and seafood distributors from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C. to talk with members of Congress about sustainable fishing and the need to keep catch shares in the tool box for our nation’s fisheries managers.

Recently, some in Congress have attempted to take catch shares off the table for fishery managers; limiting regional councils’ ability to make the best decision for their fishermen.

Catch shares help eliminate overfishing and restore fish stocks by dividing the total scientifically approved allowable catch among the fishermen and ending short seasons and derbies. Catch shares have been proven to recover fish populations, increase compliance with catch limits, reduce waste, stabilize revenue and increase business efficiency.

In more than 115 meetings, the fishermen and chefs stood together to make it clear that catch shares are working, they are making American fisheries more sustainable and they have had positive impacts not only on fishermen, but the seafood industry.

Chef Rick Moonen of rm Seafood in Las Vegas delivered a letter to Congress signed by chefs from around the country, including Eric Ripert, Mario Batali, Hugh Acheson, Kerry Heffernan, and Susan Spicerjust to name a few.

Guests at NOD 2013 congressional reception enjoy sustainable seafood recipes provided by celebrity chefs. Photo Credit: David Hills

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California Fisheries Fund Closes New Loan

The California Fisheries Fund closed a new loan last month that will help a family fishing business pass the torch to the next generation.

 Steve Fitz, captain of the F/V Mr. Morgan, will continue his family tradition operating the only commercial fishing operation in the United States that uses Scottish Seine gear, a selective and eco-friendly way to catch groundfish. Steve’s loan from the CFF helped him buy the Mr. Morgan from his uncle and start up Mr. Morgan Fisheries, a fishing business based in Half Moon Bay, specializing in sustainably harvested groundfish and Dungeness crab.

Mr. Morgan Fisheries is known for its sand dabs, Petrale sole and chilipepper rockfish—all species sustainably-managed under a catch share program. Like all other participants in this catch share program, the Mr. Morgan receives an individual fishing quota for several groundfish species that may be harvested throughout the year, with requirements for full accountability of every pound of fish harvested, and a human observer on every fishing trip. These new fishing practices guarantee there is no overfishing and Steve can use that message to market his fish with the 100% Federal At-Sea Monitoring No Overfishing Guaranteed label.

Steve Fitz grew up fishing with his father in New England before moving west and graduating from University of Denver with a degree in business. About eighteen years ago, he moved out to Half Moon Bay, California, to fish with his uncle, eventually becoming the captain of the F/V Mr. Morgan in 2000. Read More »

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Working with Fishermen to Improve their Fishing Businesses

Photo by Don Cuddy Commercial fisherman Frank Mirarchi of Scituate and Emilie Litsinger, groundfish project manager for EDF

Commercial Fisherman Frank Mirarchi of Scituate & Emilie Litsinger, groundfish project manager of EDF. Photo by Don Cuddy

The transition of the New England groundfish fishery to sector management has been a major cultural and economic shift for the fishery. Emilie Litsinger, our Groundfish Project manager, was featured in a recent story illuminating some of the relationships we have formed with fishermen to assist their transition to the new system by providing business tools and planning. "We care about the fish but we also care about the fishermen," she said to South Coast Today. "We want them to succeed so we hired business consultants to look at the problems facing fishermen like Frank and to help them, not only with prices, but also to develop new marketing initiatives." Our partnerships with fishermen go beyond achieving sustainable fisheries; we want them to have successful businesses as well. Read the full story here.

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EDF Statement in Response to Today's "Keep Fishermen Fishing" Rally

Hundreds of fishermen rallied today in Washington, D.C. to voice frustration over fishing regulations.  We understand that many fishermen are frustrated, often for good reason.  Even though some fisheries have rebounded, in many places preventing overfishing has meant shrinking fishing seasons or even implementing closures, approaches that have serious economic impacts and limit access.

However, the focus should not be on gutting the law.  Instead we need to use the flexibility in the law and innovative management approaches to address the challenges we face.  For example, NOAA is using this flexibility to address the looming crisis with Gulf of Maine cod, using the law’s emergency provisions to allow higher levels of fishing while open scientific questions are investigated further.  Many sides have come together to propose a solution that we hope will protect both the fish and the fishermen.

We can't go back to overfishing, but we can use ideas available under existing law to rebuild fisheries and give fishermen the flexibility to improve both fish populations and profits.  While many speakers at today’s rally pushed various bills that would impose top-down mandates from Washington, we believe fishery management is best decided at the council level where fishermen can directly influence how the resource they depend on is managed.

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Neuroconservation: Your Brain on Ocean

Roaring Ocean, Oregon Coast. Photo by Charles Seaborn.

The fate of the oceans is now in human hands, yet most of us ocean conservationists don’t know much about why people do things that harm the ocean, or how to motivate behavior that is good for the ocean.  As I note in my book, Heal the Ocean, the re-connection of people to the sea will be key to pervasive conservation and intelligent resource use.  But how can we do that?

I recently had the opportunity to learn about how humans relate to the ocean by moderating the Blue Mind: Your Brain on Ocean panel of scientists, futurists and communicators as part of the inaugural Bay Area Science Festival. We also explored how conservationists might be able to apply the insights of neuroscience, behavioral science, and psychology to improve conservation strategies and outcomes.

BLUEMiND Graphic from Inaugural Summit, June, 2011.

The panel line-up included marine biologist and research associate at the California  Academy of Sciences, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, who also has an economics degree from Duke University, and hybrid and communications expert Sarah Kornfeld. “J.”, as Dr. Nichols likes to be called, and Sarah hosted a groundbreaking conference in June at the Academy of Sciences called BLUEMiND to explore the response of the human brain to the ocean. Read More »

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Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association Hosts Seafood Festival

Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association Seafood Festival - People preparing food under a white tent

Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association Seafood Festival in St. Helena Island, SC.

A perk of working with fishermen is of course getting a chance to taste some of the best seafood around. When I learned that the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association would organize its very first annual seafood festival, I didn’t need to be convinced that it would feature the finest dishes in the Lowcountry. Held last Saturday in St. Helena Island, SC, the festival brought together visitors, neighbors, families, and friends for a celebration of good eating. 

The event was a fundraiser and membership drive for the newly founded organization. GGFA formed earlier this year as an outcome of meetings led by EDF and the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition to reach out to the African-American fishing community in the Southeast. Many within this community identify themselves as Gullah/Geechee, the descendents of West African enslaved people brought to the United States nearly 400 years ago.

Gullah/Geechee Seafood Festival - Container of collard greens, macaroni and cheese, cornbread and stuffed crab and other seafood.

Delicious food from the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association Seafood Festival

On Saturday, the air was flooded with the aroma of savory, traditional Gullah/Geechee seafood cuisine. Fried shrimp, whiting, flounder, oysters, deviled crab, steamed crab, shrimp and grits, and gumbo were only some of the dishes the association had to offer during the festivities. Members of the association supplied much of the seafood and served as chefs providing mouth watering fish hot off the stove. The food was nothing short of a feast.

In an interview earlier last week, Queen Quet, head of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and secretary of GGFA, conveyed the cultural significance of the festival. According to Queen Quet, it is important to support GGFA because of its objective to passed down this customary knowledge to the next generation. For the Gullah/Geechee, fishing is an aspect of their culture worth honoring. It is a life skill that endured the African Diaspora and later helped to provide financial independence for the people. Thus ensuring healthy marine resources is an essential piece to protecting this “unbroken” tradition.

Oyster shells in a large plastic white basket

Oyster shells

Turnout for the event was strong, helping to raise enough money just shy of the association’s goal. In lieu of the successful festival, the GGFA is already looking into plans for next year. 

Congratulations to GGFA for putting on a great event. The level of hard work that went into it was evident throughout the joyous occasion and was reflected in the delectable dishes.  Luckily for those who missed out, you have a year to work up an appetite for the next festival; I can promise you it will be worth the wait.

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The Deadliest Catch? Less Dangerous Under Catch Shares

Under conventional fishery management, fishermen often have no choice but to go out in rough seas. Under catch share management, fishermen have the flexibility to wait and fish in good weather and safer waters.

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that in 2009 commercial fishing once again had the highest fatality rate per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. The rate was approximately 60 times the average fatality rate for all workers, and was higher than for loggers, police and sheriff’s patrol officers, as well as aircraft pilots and flight engineers.

Why is it so dangerous? To a certain degree, fishing is inherently dangerous – going out on a boat in the middle of the ocean, hauling heavy swinging pots or nets onto a deck covered in gear while waves crash around you carries a certain amount of risk. But the job can be made more dangerous due to restrictive fishery management policies that try to limit fishermen’s catch by severely limiting fishing seasons and/or days-at-sea. When faced with such restrictions, fishermen attempt to maximize their catch in these short windows of time by going out regardless of weather, working longer shifts and overloading their boats with equipment.

Keith “Buddy” Guindon from Galveston, Texas had one of the scariest moments of his career as a lifelong commercial fisherman when the Gulf’s commercial red snapper fishery used to be limited to short seasons. He and his crew fished so long and hard that one night the lookout on duty fell asleep, leaving the boat to drive itself for 2 to 3 hours through the Gulf’s now infamous oil field. Surprisingly, the boat didn’t wreck — avoiding potentially fatal consequences.

One way safety can be improved is with catch share management. Under catch shares, fishermen are required to stay within a specified cap for the season and in return have flexibility about over when to fish. The result is safer jobs. Five years after catch shares were implemented, ten U.S. and British Columbian commercial fisheries saw an average 2.5 fold increase in safety, as measured by lost vessels, search and rescue missions, injuries, deaths and safety violations.

The number of search and rescue missions for Alaska’s halibut and sablefish fishermen declined after catch shares were implemented from 26 and 33 in 1993 and 1994 respectively (pre-catch shares) to just 5 cases in 2007 and 3 in 2008 (under catch shares).   More than 85 percent Alaska halibut fishermen surveyed found fishing to be safer under catch shares.

Many people think of Alaska crab as “The Deadliest Catch” after watching the popular Discovery Channel series filmed in the Bering Sea. The Alaskan crab fisheries were quite deadly: one vessel and five crewmen were lost on average each year in the 1990s. 
The fishery became safer due to both the implementation of a dockside safety monitoring program, and by switching to catch share management. Ending the “race for fish” reduced the incentive for stacking too much gear on board (destabilizing vessels) and reduced pressure to fish in poor weather conditions. It also improved the economic stability of the industry, eliminating less seaworthy vessels and leading to the development of more professional crews, all of which contributed to improved safety.

An article in Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council, the Coast Guard Journal of Safety at Sea states, “an increased number of fishing days, increased flexibility for masters to choose when to fish, and reduced emphasis on catching power and large pot loads potentially have safety benefits and contribute to eliminating vessel losses.”  Since coming under catch share management five years ago, there has been only one crabber in Alaska who has lost his life while fishing.

The experience in Alaska illustrates how catch share programs can play an important role in improving safety. Catch shares reduce the pressure to fish in bad weather and dangerous conditions, as well as allow fishermen to work with more rest in between trips. Because catch share programs are more profitable, fishermen can also better afford to maintain their vessels.

Buddy Guindon is glad that the Gulf’s commercial red snapper fishery is now a catch share.

“It is important to note that some fisheries are far more dangerous than others,” said Dave Preble, a retired charter boat and commercial fisherman from Rhode Island, who is currently on the New England Fishery Management Council. “But all fisheries are safer under quota/hard TAC (catch share) management."

Linked Sources

Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2009. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf

National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2009 – Preliminary Results. Press Release. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. August 19, 2010. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf

National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2009 – Preliminary Results. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Hours-based fatal injury rates by industry, occupation, and selected demographic characteristics. August 19, 2010. http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfoi_rates_2009hb.pdf

“Assessing the Potential for LAPPs in US Fisheries,” by Redstone Strategy Group, LLC and Environmental Defense, March 2007. http://www.redstonestrategy.com/reports.php?action=detail&publicationID=12

NOAA Fisheries Service. Catch Share Spotlight No. 1. Alaska IFQ Halibut and Sablefish Program, November 2009. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/domes_fish/catchshare/docs/ak_halibut_sablefish.pdf

“Effects of IFQ Management on Fishing Safety: Survey Responses of Alaska Halibut Fishermen,” University of Alaska Institute of Social and Economic Research, May 1999. http://www.iser.uaa.alaska.edu/Projects/ifqsurv/safety.pdf

“Report to the Governor: Three Years of Safety, Stability and Improved Resource Management,” The Coalition for Safe and Sustainable Crab Fisheries, Alaska, Washington and Oregon, 2008. http://www.wafro.com/imageuploads/file175.pdf
 
Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council, the Coast Guard Journal of Safety at Sea, Spring 2009.

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South Carolina Fisherman Wants Catch Shares, Not Closures

A recent op-ed by Chris Conklin in The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, voiced frustration over the cascading closures now hitting the Southeast. Conklin comes from a fishing family and wonders if he’ll be able to stay in the fishing industry unless catch shares are instituted. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is considering a number of options – including catch shares – to reduce fishing closures and get fishermen back on the water. 

Conklin points to the success of the red snapper catch share in the Gulf of  Mexico.  Not too long ago, Gulf red snapper fishermen were in a similar situation to fishermen in the Southeast. Now, they are now enjoying the third successful year of a catch share. They have a year-round season and dockside prices are higher. These fishermen will likely receive more fish this year because fish population rebuilding is going so well.

Even as Gulf commercial fishermen deal with the worsening oil spill, the flexibility they have to fish throughout the year lets them plan their businesses in the face of natural or man-made problems better than those not under a catch share.

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