EDFish

What do Cuban and Belizean fishers have in common? More than meets the eye.

Cuba and Belize are connected by more than ocean currents. They share critical ecosystems like mangroves and coral reefs, and both countries have made major strides in fisheries management and coral reef conservation and are currently working to renew and strengthen their fisheries laws and policies. They also share challenges facing their fisheries—including managing complex fisheries that catch dozens of species all together—rather than targeting just one or two.

I was excited to join partners from both countries at a recent intensive four day Fisheries Exchange where they learned from each other and discussed new ways to collaborate on solutions to shared challenges, including different management strategies for the ecosystem overall and for important species like lobster, conch, and many species of finfish.

The Exchange included learning both in the classroom, and on the water—with the goal of showcasing how diverse partnerships working together improves science and compliance, involves and educates more stakeholders, creates opportunities for community development and leads to better managed fisheries and protected areas that benefit users for the long term.

We know from our work with fishing communities around the world that often the best way to solve shared challenges is to connect groups of likeminded fisheries stakeholders to share experiences and solutions. Read More »

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Cuban communities forging an innovative path to marine conservation

Celeste, Dafnet, Evelin, Fidel, Laura, Maikel, Patricia, Rafael, Valentín and Yudier. These are not the names of hurricanes, but the names of Cubans whose ideas and innovative actions have the constructive energy of a hurricane.

The energy of these people has been key to advancing marine sustainability in Cuba. Moreover, they are not alone. Across the island, there are up-and-coming initiatives that share common visions. They owe part of their success to the momentum of already established learning networks that facilitate the exchange of information and experiences. Learning networks help bring people together to solve complex problems. They are designed to create and disseminate information, to align common visions to facilitate collective action and therefore these problems. Read More »

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Research sheds light on how to better manage small-scale fisheries

Small scale fisheries are critically important for the provision of food security, livelihoods, and economic development for billions of people. Most of these fisheries appear to be under-performing with respect to conservation, food production, revenue, and the quality of the livelihoods they can support.

Many factors related to successful small-scale fisheries management have been articulated in previous research and through practical e xperience, including strong leadership, co-management, secure catch or marine tenure privileges, and scientific assessment of fishery status.   Both the pathways and tools employed in fishery reform vary, but there is a growing consensus that the integration of effective fisheries governance and science-based management is crucial for success.

Together with fishermen and women, community members, managers and scientists we have identified some major lessons that arise from case studies in Belize, Cuba, Mexico and the Philippines. In newly published research, my colleagues and I evaluate the stories, challenges and lessons learned from these fisheries, where these groups are developing science-based solutions for sustainable fishing. We found that successful science-based management includes fisher participation and empowerment, partnership across sectors and community buy-in, and sound scientific analysis. Read More »

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5 Reasons for Hope on World Fisheries Day 2015

EDFFavs04Picture the world’s oceans once again abounding in fish, as part of a thriving and diverse marine ecosystem that supplies people with an increasing amount of protein rich food.

This can be the future. Within our lifetimes, improved fishing policies and practices can help create much healthier oceans that support more fish, feed more people, and improve livelihoods. These outcomes go hand in hand, because a healthier, more resilient ocean is also one that can support larger harvests.

This World Fisheries Day, we are optimistic that despite challenges facing fisheries, there is a bright future for both fish populations, and the people who depend on them.

 

Here are 5 progress points from 2015 that give us hope:

  1. Global oceans can yield more fish, more food, and more prosperity: At the World Oceans Summit in June, we previewed a bio-economic model that shows a triple win for fisheries with smarter management. Our preliminary results show that global fisheries, if managed sustainably, could yield 23% more wild fish, generate 315% more profits, and boost the amount of fish left in the water for conservation by 112%. If we get fishing right, we can reverse the threats facing fisheries and coastal communities within our lifetimes. Read more here.

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Cuba’s plan for shark conservation

A Caribbean reef shark encountered off the coast of Cuba.

A Caribbean reef shark encountered off the coast of Cuba. Credit: Noel Lopez Fernandez

Sharks are recognized by scientists, resource managers and the tourism ministry in Cuba for their critical role in marine ecosystems, as a tourist attraction for divers and as a protein source when caught by fishers. Leaders from various Cuban agencies, looking at how to balance these needs and protect sharks, are now for the first time creating a national plan for shark conservation.  This is important not just for Cuba but for the entire Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region where many shark populations travel throughout waters shared by many nations.

Earlier this year I sat in a hotel discoteca in Trinidad, Cuba that was converted into a teaching space for daytime use. Here I watched fishers jump at the chance to correctly identify shark species and prove their skills in front of their peers. This was the second shark and ray identification workshop organized by Cuba’s Ministry of Food (MINAL) and EDF where fishers, boat captains and port employees came together from across the country to learn about Cuba’s efforts to study and conserve sharks.

Because of ongoing concerns over declining shark populations in the region, the Cuban government is making shark conservation  a national priority through the development of its first-ever National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Sharks and Rays (NPOA-Sharks). They hope to complete it by the end of the year. Read More »

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At The Brink: Ocean Tipping Points

Healthy Coral in the Gardens of the Queen, Cuba. Photo: Noel Lopez Fernandez

Healthy sponge in the Gardens of the Queen, Cuba. Photo: Noel Lopez Fernandez

Coral reefs seem delicate, but when they are healthy they can take a lot of abuse.  I’ve seen corals recover from severe hurricanes and even volcanic eruptions. But coral reefs can also transition suddenly from colorful, vibrant ecosystems to mere shadows of themselves.  Decades of scientific investigation have shed a lot of light on this, and in a recent publication, my colleagues and I summarize a lot of the data that have been collected on Caribbean coral reefs to identify where these dangerous “tipping points” are.  This work is part of the Ocean Tipping Points project, a collaboration between several institutions aimed at finding tipping points in all kinds of marine ecosystems so that managers can implement measures that will keep these ecosystems well away from the brink. Read More »

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