EDFish

Expedition Cuba Part 2: Scientists Partner with Fishermen to Explore Cuban Waters

The tuna fishing crew meets up with the research team in the Gulf of Batabanó.

By: Valerie Miller & Kendra Karr

Part II of a blog series reporting on the February 2013 Research Expedition in Cuba organized by EDF Oceans’ Cuba, Science, and Shark teams and funded by the Waitt Foundation. A team of scientists from Cuba, Mexico and the U.S. along with EDF staff set sail on an exploratory research cruise to share knowledge, scientific methodologies and to survey shark populations in Cuba. The tri-national expedition was led by Cuban scientists from University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research (CIM) and U.S. scientists from the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida.

In early February the team of researchers boarded the RV Felipe Poey and departed the south coast of Cuba for the Gulf of Batabanó.  The nine-day expedition was designed to monitor shark populations, collect baseline data on plankton and benthic communities and train scientists in data collection techniques for future monitoring.  It took the entire first day to steam to the Isle of Youth.   By the evening the smooth waters and night sky had blended into one endless black landscape. As a sense of isolation set-in, the boat turned towards some lights in the distance – which emanated from a lobster station floating in the middle of the Gulf.  After a day crossing the ocean with no land in sight, it felt strange stepping off the boat and onto the deck at the station. The lobster fishermen, friends of the Cuban scientists, showed us around the facility which stores their daily catch in pens.  This moonlight meeting was just the first of many productive interactions with fishermen throughout the journey. Read More »

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Expedition Cuba: A Tri-National Journey to Share Science and Survey Sharks, Part 1

Shark researchers from Cuba, Mexico, &  the U.S. capture a bull shark in the Gulf of Batabanó, Cuba.

Shark researchers from Cuba, Mexico, & the U.S. capture a bull shark in the Gulf of Batabanó, Cuba. (From L to R: Pedro Reyes and Alexei Ruiz of the Center for Marine Research – Cuba, Jack Morris of Mote Marine Laboratory – USA) Photo Credit: Valerie Miller

 

By: Kendra Karr & Valerie Miller

Intro by Dan Whittle: With generous support from the Waitt Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has launched a new initiative to support collaborative field research with scientists from the University of Havana's Center for Marine Research. This initiative is enabling teams of Cuban, U.S. and Mexican scientists to carry out a series of scientific expeditions to conduct important new research on Cuba's remarkable—but understudied—marine and coastal ecosystems. This effort will also support year-round port sampling of shark fishery landings at Cuban ports, contributing to EDF’s overarching tri-national shark conservation efforts throughout the Gulf of Mexico.  

On our inaugural expedition in February 2013, our tri-national team embarked on a research cruise off of Cuba's south coast in the Gulf of Batabanó to share knowledge and scientific methods, and to survey migratory shark populations. The expedition was organized by EDF Oceans’ Cuba, Science, and Shark conservation programs and led on-the-water by scientists from University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research (CIM) and from the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida; with participation by a scientist from Mexico’s College of the Southern Frontier (ECOSUR).

Results from this expedition will be highlighted in a 3 part blog series. Today’s post focuses on sharing science in data-limited shark fisheries.  It will be followed by stories about the partnership of fishermen and scientists and baseline data.  Join the journey here and follow along this week! Read More »

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Time to end the sniping over snapper

red snapper fishing

Photo Credit: GulfWild

The short seasons, decreasing bag limits and failing management of the recreational red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico has everyone that cares about the fishery upset.  States are demanding changes from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), lawsuits have been filed, contentious proposals are before the Gulf Council and Congress has started to look into the matter.

As always, a war of words is underway online and in the press – some of it is outrageous.  Whenever the issue comes up that management is failing for recreational fishing, the Recreational Fishing Alliance tries to change the subject by promoting outlandish conspiracy theories and allegations.  Most of these are aimed at EDF. We’re used to that by now.

They also attack mainstream anglers, because mainstream anglers such as the Coastal Conservation Association talk about the real issues – at least part of the time.  CCA this week followed in the wake of the latest spasm from RFA, suggesting that EDF is backing a lawsuit filed by commercial fishermen.  We are not. Read More »

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A Big Step Forward for Better Rigs To Reef Management

A large group of chub (Kyphosus sp.) school under the platform. Photo: Schmahl/FGBNMS (From NOAA)

As I’ve written before, the Rigs to Reefs permitting process of the federal and state agencies in the Gulf of Mexico is a good example of “finding ways that work.”  This cooperative process enables the owners of oil and gas platforms to use those structures to support artificial reefs.  In fact, this means the rigs continue serving as artificial reefs because they have already attracted fish, coral, and other marine life as the rigs produced oil or gas.

Over the past few years, the issue of rig removal has become a heated topic among anglers as the federal government undertook more aggressive measures to remove retired rigs.  The officials responsible for safe retirement of end-of-service rigs and the anglers and divers who benefit from the marine life around those rigs have been at odds over the best ways to maintain reef habitats while also providing for other uses of the Gulf. That tension was reduced this week when the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, a division of the Department of Interior, issued a new policy addressing several sticking points that arose in recent years.  Most of the log jam has been caused by basic questions of process:  how many rigs would remain as reef habitat, where would they be placed, and how would they be secured? Read More »

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Who caught tonight's seafood dinner?

Jason DeLaCruz, a fisherman with Gulf Wild, holds grouper caught in the Gulf of Mexico. Fishermen provide detailed tracing information for the fish to market them to high-end chefs and retailers. Photo by Rich Taylor.

In E&E Greenwire today, reporter Allison Winter writes about a seafood label called Gulf Wild, which puts a barcode on fish from the Gulf of Mexico’s catch share program. Consumers can use that barcode to find out where exactly the fish was caught and the name of the fishermen who landed it. Fishermen involved in Gulf Wild also sign a “conservation covenant” and consumers can feel better knowing that the catch share program has successfully ended commercial overfishing. In addition, fishermen are no longer required, as they were under the old regulations, to toss good fish overboard if they accidentally catch it on the wrong day.

The article also discusses how catch shares have played a role in increasing seafood traceability for chefs and ultimately consumers:

“Some fishermen in the program also credit a new management system for creating the opportunity to start the program… One result, according to those involved with the fishery, is that fishermen have been more willing to cooperate with each other and have the time and incentive to fish more carefully and find new ways to market their fish.”

“(Catch share) advocates — including chefs, some environmental groups and fishermen involved in the programs — say they create a stable environment for fish and fishermen and a steadier supply for the market. Rick Moonen, a renowned chef and advocate for sustainable seafood, is among them. Moonen supports catch shares for the environmental benefits but said his business also benefits with better-quality fish. Fishermen in a catch share can work more slowly and try to get a premium for fish that were handled carefully.

‘Sometimes, with other fisheries, you end up with a beat-up fish, and as a chef you're thinking, this sucks," Moonen said. "I would rather pay another dollar a pound and get a better fish. Boom, there you go, catch shares make that possible.’”

Read the full article here

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'Fish on Fridays': Gulf of Mexico Grouper

Grilled Grouper

Grilled Grouper over Arugula & orange salad. Photo credit: Food Network/Emeril Lagasse

Grouper are delicious fish that are harvested in both the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. In the Gulf of Mexico, these fish are managed under a catch share program, where species like red and black grouper have healthy populations. John Schmidt, a fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico who fishes for grouper, tells us about his experiences in the fishery and how it has changed for the better under a catch share. Finally, we are sharing a delicious and healthy recipe for grilled grouper over an arugula and orange salad.

Gulf of Mexico Grouper/Tilefish IFQ Program

The Grouper-Tilefish IFQ program was implemented in January of 2010. Prior to this program, commercial grouper and tilefish were managed with limited access fishing permits, trip limits, size limits, closed seasons and catch limits. These management measures resulted in overcapitalization of the fishery and subsequent early closures. Fishermen were going bankrupt and fish stocks were depleted. Since the fishermen have been operating under a catch share in this fishery, the stocks are rebuilding, discards of dead fish are down, the race to fish has been eliminated, and fishermen are able to grow their businesses in an industry that was previously struggling. Read More »

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