Category Archives: Fishing Safety

Setting aside space provides room for innovation

By Sarah Poon

Territorial Use Rights for Fishing, or TURFs, have been in place for centuries in fishing communities around the world.  In a TURF, fishery participants have a secure, exclusive privilege to fish in a defined area.  Many fishery policy experts view TURFs and catch share programs as separate options for managing fisheries. TURFs are a type of catch share, since the area-based privileges assigned under a TURF provide the same rewards for stewardship as quota-based privileges.

In recent decades fishery managers have channeled the historical successes of this approach by formally recognizing customary TURFs, applying them to more fisheries and experimenting  with modern adaptations.

Community-based territorial rights that have existed for centuries are now formally recognized by national law in Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Palau.  Empowered by national law promoting traditional community-based management, the Safata District of Samoa implemented a district-wide TURF in 2000.  Bylaws developed by the community manage members’ fishing efforts and limit outsiders’ access.  Safata’s leaders have further improved biological performance by establishing a network of no-take reserves.  With a formalized role in management, the district has received strong community support, high regulatory compliance and increased abundance for important species.

TURF systems have been used in different types of fisheries, but they are particularly well-suited for managing near shore fisheries where there is a clear spatial range of fishing activity. While these systems are ideal for less mobile species that don’t move beyond TURF boundaries, they can also be designed for more mobile species.

In Mexico, fishermen are benefitting immensely from the Baja California Regional Federation of Fishing Cooperative Societies (FEDECOOP). Under the federation, 13 fishing Cooperatives from 10 villages manage Baja spiny lobster, abalone, and other species in 10 area-based concessions or TURFs. By coordinating management across a network of TURFs, FEDECOOP has served as a model for sustainable fisheries management. The fishery was awarded Marine Stewardship Council certification in 2004, making it the first small-scale fishery in a developing country to receive accreditation.  The system has incentivized fishermen to protect stocks and many Cooperatives have even implemented voluntary no-take zones, allowing fish populations to recover more quickly and the oceans ecosystems to become more resilient to change.

Across the world, the Japanese Common Fishing Rights System is a model for managing nearshore species—including more mobile species—through a coordinated system of co-management. Japan’s program, formally established in 1949 when Fishery Cooperative Associations (FCAs) were granted TURFs, spans most of the nation’s coastline and includes more than 1,000 FCAs. Under the TURF system, FCAs are responsible for the day-to-day management of coastal fisheries.  Fishery management organizations (FMOs) have also emerged to improve management by promoting collaboration between fishermen targeting certain species or using certain gear types, often including fishermen from multiple FCAs. Innovation is an outcome of the TURF system, and fishermen within and between Cooperatives have agreed to pool effort, costs, knowledge and revenues to increase profits and improve stock conditions.

These are just a few examples of fisheries that are successfully using TURFs to manage their resources. Below you will find links to additional examples of how fisheries have designed TURFs to meet biological, economic and social goals.  A step-by-step guide to designing TURFs can be found here. To access our full fisheries toolkit click here.

Mexican Vigía Chico Cooperative Spiny Lobster Territorial Use Rights for Fishing Program

The most productive fishing Cooperative in the Mexican-Caribbean since 1982, this area-based catch share program has steadied the Punta Allen lobster catch while ensuring access to community members.

Chilean National Benthic Resources Territorial Use Rights for Fishing Program

Among the largest area-based catch share programs in the world, the Chilean TURF system includes more than 17,000 artisanal fishermen and co-manages more than 550 distinct areas along the coast.

Spanish Galicia Goose Barnacle Cofradía System

The Galician goose barnacle fishery’s integration of traditional fishing guilds, provision of secure and exclusive fishing areas and use of an on-site fisheries ecologist have established one of the most successful models of fisheries co-management in Spain.

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Letter: Fishing Regulations Shouldn’t Imperil Safety

USCG Boat, Oregon

photo credit: Tidewater Muse via photopin cc

Regulations to restock fisheries and keep fishermen safe ought to go hand in hand. Unfortunately, in an effort to control how many fish are caught, regulators frequently impose rules that end up putting fishermen in harm’s way. For instance, if fishermen are limited to a set number of days on the water, there is pressure to go out and stay out, no matter the weather conditions.   This time constraint also makes it less likely that captains and crew will take safety precautions and get enough rest.

EDF Oceans has joined safety advocates and families of commercial fishermen who have lost their lives at sea in signing a letter urging the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to ensure that rules to control overfishing do not result in unsafe conditions for fishermen.

The letter, signed by members of the Safe at Sea Network, as well as other fishing safety advocates, says, “When it comes to fishing safety, management plans should ‘first do no harm.’”

Strategies to protect fish stocks are vital, but it’s entirely feasible to accomplish those goals without making fishing more dangerous. Fishery management plans can be designed in a manner that allows fishermen to stay home on stormy days without losing their economic share in the fishery. They will also have more time to make sure their safety equipment is up to date, attend safety trainings and maintain their vessel to meet safety standards.  While safety factors vary in every fishery, catch shares can make fishing safer by eliminating derby style ‘race to fish’ scenarios and allowing fishermen to stay at home during stormy weather.

NMFS is currently examining revisions to existing safety standards, which direct the regional fishery management councils to consider safety as a factor when developing fishery management plans. The standard must be strengthened so that protecting human life at sea is paramount, rather than “optional or an afterthought.”

The letter lays out concerns that need to be addressed before rules to govern fishing can be finalized, such as:

  • Does the proposed policy result in a derby-style fishery?
  • Does the proposed policy include daily catch limits or limited fish days that would push vessels to stay out in poor weather?
  • Does the proposed policy result in a vessel working in distant water more than three hours from SAR (Search and Rescue) assets?

The letter was submitted to NMFS and was also discussed last week at the Commercial Fishing Safety Advisory Committee (CFSAC) meeting at the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C. The committee provides recommendations to the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security on safe operation of commercial fishing vessels.

During the meeting, the committee voted to endorse the letter—signifying their support for continuing to encourage NMFS and the councils to make safety at sea a priority when developing fishery management plans.

Read the full letter here.

 

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Department of Labor Finds Fishing is (once again) the Deadliest Job

The U.S. Department of Labor released its final statistics on job fatalities in 2011 today.  Fishing was once again the deadliest occupation, with a fatality rate 36 times that of the national average. Fishing is consistently the most dangerous American occupation, year after year, which is surprising to many people who do not fish or are not close to the industry.

NPR produced this compelling visual based on the last numbers the Department of Labor released in 2012 on job fatalities:

Bureau Of Labor Statistics Deadliest Jobs 2011

Source: Bureau Of Labor Statistics
Credit: Jess Jiang and Lam Thuy Vo /NPR

There are many factors that impact fishing safety including the rules that are put into place to address overfishing. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is in the process of revising the fishing safety provision in the Magnuson Stevens Act.  It’s important that the provision be strengthened so that new rules to make fisheries sustainable do not compromise safety.  Unintended consequences may sometimes result from some approaches to control fishing, such as imposing very short fishing seasons, limiting crew size, or the length of vessels.

One way to improve fishing safety is by choosing fishery management plans that do not result in fishing derbies–or a ‘race to fish’—where safety is compromised by an economic incentive to race against other fishermen and the clock to catch as many fish as possible, even in stormy weather. Catch shares are proven to keep fishing within limits and also can also positively impact safety in multiple ways, such as by reducing the pressure to fish in bad weather because  fishermen have more freedom over when to fish in a catch share. Catch shares are not an ideal solution for every fishery, but they should be kept in the toolbox of options for fishery Councils—especially if they can potentially help decrease the risk for fishermen.

Making fishing a significantly less deadly profession is going to take a variety of measures. It’s no small task because fishing is inherently dangerous, but it shouldn’t be any more dangerous than it has to be.  It’s time for fishing safety advocates, fishermen and conservationists to stand together to ensure safety is being considered in the formation of management plans.

 

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What’s the Deadliest Job? Police Officer? Fire Fighter? Fisherman?

NPR’s Planet Money created a compelling graphic to illustrate how different jobs compare in terms of the risk of getting killed on the clock.  While police and fire fighters may come to mind as being the deadliest occupations, fishermen actually have the highest risk per 100,000 workers of losing their lives.

Fishing is inherently a dangerous profession, but there are many ways to make it safer that deserve attention. One is catch share management, which ends the race to fish and relieves some of the pressure on fishermen to be on the water in the worst weather because they’re afraid the fishing season will be cut off. Read more about the impact catch shares have had on safety here.

Bureau of Labor Statistics Deadliest Jobs

Source: Bureau Of Labor Statistics
Credit: Jess Jiang and Lam Thuy Vo /NPR

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In-Depth Reporting on the Dangers of Commercial Fishing

US Commercial Fishing Fatalities By Region 2000-2009, 504 total

Source: Jennifer Lincoln, NIOSH

The Center for Public Integrity teamed up with NPR and WBUR to report on the significant dangers of the commercial fishing industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that commercial fishing is the deadliest job in America.In 2010, fishermen faced a risk of dying on the job 42 times higher than the average worker.

The in-depth piece by the Center for Public Integrity’s Ronnie Greene highlights a host of reasons why fishing can be such risky business. In many ways fishing is inherently dangerous. One fisherman interviewed explained if there’s a problem on the boat at sea you can’t exactly pull over and call AAA. Read More »

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