Selected category: Global Fisheries

Protecting imperiled ocean travelers

Photo: Noel Lopez-Fernandez

Photo: Noel Lopez-Fernandez

By: Katie Westfall & Melissa Mahoney

Across the globe, populations of many highly migratory species of fish, turtles and marine mammals have hit dangerously low levels. For example, Western Pacific leatherbacks have declined more than 80 percent, and their Eastern Pacific counterparts have declined by more than 97 percent. Many of these species play vital roles in maintaining balanced ocean ecosystems full of diversity and life. As we work to reverse these declines, environmentalists have to ensure that everything we do has the greatest positive impact. This means that we’ll need smart management at home and solutions that protect highly migratory species wherever they roam.

New research suggests that well-intentioned U.S. regulations designed to help species like sharks and sea turtles may actually create a net harm to imperiled sea life.

This unintentional negative dynamic can occur when a country, like the United States, unilaterally adopts a regulation to protect an imperiled species such as sea turtles or sharks caught as bycatch. If the regulation leads to decreased fishing domestically and shifts fishing internationally to countries where bycatch rates are higher, the net result can be a higher number of bycatch deaths for the very species the regulation intended to protect. This phenomenon has been called the “transfer effect.” Read More »

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Here’s why the world should invest in a sustainable fishing future

photo credit: pengrin™ origami fish - made by June via photopin (license)

photo credit: pengrin™ origami fish – made by June via photopin (license)

Investing in the ocean is essential to ensuring life thrives on our planet. Three billion people depend on seafood for their survival, and hundreds of millions depend on the oceans for their livelihood. With climate impacts threatening this critical resource, now is the time to bring investment capital to accelerating the transition to sustainable fishing.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. urged worldwide consensus on the need for large-scale private financial investments to cover the costs of combatting climate change. He points out that “there is a global abundance of private capital” that should be tapped to develop clean technologies rather than relying exclusively on the relatively small supply of capital available from governments. Mr. Paulson also asserts that governments can lead the way to a low-carbon future by creating policies and tools to enable the flow of capital into critical projects.

The same is true for sustainable fishing. We already have the tools to increase the amount of fish in the sea, food on the plate and financial return for fishing communities in as little as ten years. EDF, together with the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit and 50in10, found that fish and people thrive, and investment risk is lower, when harvests are at sustainable levels, fishers have secure access rights and there is robust monitoring and enforcement of fishing activity. These enabling conditions make it possible for investors to focus on investments in seafood supply chains, infrastructure, and technology. Read More »

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New process helps managers make informed decisions, even in data poor fisheries

The coast of Galicia, Spain where octopus, goose barnacles, and many other species are harvested by small scale fishermen and women.

The coast of Galicia, Spain where octopus, goose barnacles, and many other species are harvested by small-scale fishermen and women.

Fishery managers, scientists and NGOs from all over Spain gathered in Madrid on a warm spring morning at a workshop convened by EDF and World Wildlife Fund Spain, eager to learn about how to collect, analyze, and use data to manage fishing mortality so that they could achieve their goal of good yields sustained over many years and even generations.

Like many people struggling to improve fishery outcomes around the world, the participants in this workshop felt like they couldn’t use the complex fishery assessment models they had learned in school because the data they actually had in hand were quite limited – and the models required rich streams of data.  The vast majority – probably over 80% – of the world’s fisheries appear to be in this situation.  The participants also felt like they had to make important management decisions with limited expertise by wading through a mass of technical papers on a variety of topics, none giving clear and specific guidance for the specific fisheries they care so much about.

Over the course of three intense days, participants worked together to synthesize guidance from the literature and from other fisheries on how to monitor fisheries, choose appropriate analytical methods and use the results to manage fisheries.  Together, we worked out how this guidance could be applied to specific fisheries.

We were thrilled to read the evaluations afterward.  Participants got a tremendous amount out of the workshop, but many of them said that it was too short (even though most of us were exhausted by the long days of thinking hard and practicing various skills).  They wanted to dig deeper and build on the skills that they had learned.  It would have been great to have a large body of international expertise on monitoring, data analysis and how to adjust fishing mortality to achieve fishery management goals in one convenient place that could be tailored to the fisheries that they care most about.

FishPath: Guiding managers in complex, data poor fisheries

Fortunately, a working group of international stock assessment experts convened by the Science for Nature and People program foresaw this need and developed a process called FishPath that does exactly that.  FishPath  elicits key information about a specific fishery and then uses that information to identify monitoring, assessment and harvest control options that will likely be appropriate for that fishery.  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.

Read More »

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TURF Tools: Exploring tools to help restore small-scale fisheries

Photo: Kaia Joye Moyer

Photo: Kaia Joye Moyer

By:  Kaia Joye Moyer, Masters Student at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management

It is 5am. The sun is just rising, but Hermes Arandas, a fisher from Totolan, Dauis, Bohol in the Philippines, is anything but just waking up. Today he and six fellow fishers are pulling their banca, a long slender outrigger canoe into the boat landing area. The men left the harbor at 4 pm the previous day and have been out fishing all night.  Hermes tells me that he remembers fishing with his father. Back then, the fish were not far from shore, but today they can’t be found there.  In order to continue to support his family, Hermes must fish farther and longer because catch is decreasing and fish are getting smaller.

Unfortunately Hermes is not alone in his story. More than 90% of the fishermen around the world are small-scale fishers like Hermes, mostly living in developing nations. And while these fishers provide half of the global fish catch, they are also particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they rely on fish for both their livelihood and food source

It is stories like Hermes’ that brought us to the Philippines.

Read More »

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TURFtools: Exploring and Piloting Tools for Oceans Sustainability

TURFBlog1Small-scale coastal fisheries are central to the health of the ocean, livelihood, poverty alleviation and food security for millions around the world, but today many of them are severely threatened by chronic overfishing.

As the population increases and demand for seafood continues to rise, fishers harvest more, resulting in declining fish populations.  Open access fishing, in which anyone can fish anywhere, as much as they can, is at the root of the overfishing problem.

As more and more people harvest the fish, no one is held responsible for making sure the fish don’t run out. Instead, fishers try to catch as much fish as possible, as quickly as possible, because they believe that if they don’t, someone else will get there first.

That’s why EDF is working with small-scale fishers and communities to implement fisheries management programs that rewards sustainable fishing practices.  Read More »

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