According to a recent study published in Science, nearly 80% of the world’s catch comes from “data-limited” fisheries. Not surprisingly, research shows that many of these fisheries are facing collapse, jeopardizing the food security of hundreds of millions of people in developing countries who depend on seafood for a majority of their dietary protein.
Historically, fisheries with little data had few science-based management options. But new methods are being continuously developed and used in the field that deliver science-based results, even in the absence of long-term, historical catch data. Since fishery stock assessments can be extremely complex, EDF recently developed a user-friendly, six-step framework as part of an overall guide to Science-Based Management of Data-Limited Fisheries.
The framework outlines a systematic approach that fishery managers can use to conduct quick and relatively inexpensive assessments. The methods allow stakeholders in data-limited fisheries to estimate risks to marine ecosystems, determine vulnerability of a stock to fishing pressure, calculate the level of overfishing, assess the sustainability of the fishery, and establish sustainable fishing targets and other management reference points.
Recently a US Senate subcommittee held a hearing entitled “Developments and Opportunities in US Fisheries Management,” with testimony by federal, regional and state officials that focused on the need for collaboration in fisheries management and decision-making based on sound science. More than two and a half hours of testimony and questioning by Senators focused on the role of science and the Magnuson Stevens Act in effective management of our nation’s fisheries, especially summer flounder or “fluke.”
What is clear in the early hours of debating MSA’s reauthorization is that stakeholders across the board are focused on a common top priority – simply, good science is fundamental to good management. This reality is at the core of the interstate summer flounder battle, with NY arguing that the use of outdated data has led to an unequal allocation of fish between states. Read More »
If you’ve been to an upscale Manhattan seafood restaurant, chances are you’ve seen Black Sea Bass on the menu. New York chefs drive the bulk of the demand for this tasty Atlantic fish, but you don’t have to be a fancy New York City chef to put Black Sea Bass on the table. Sea bass fished off the coast of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware is caught sustainably under a catch share program which ensures that catch limits are not exceeded and fish populations can maintain healthy numbers. It is important to note, however, that not all sea bass caught on the Atlantic coast is sustainably managed, so it is best to ask your chef or seafood vendor where the fish was caught to ensure you are supporting fishermen who are fishing sustainably.
This week’s ‘Fish on Fridays’ post features VA black sea bass, currently managed under an ITQ system. Jack Stallings and his partner at Virginia Beach’s Coastal Grill have shared their technique for frying sea bass whole and serving it with scallion butter. Read More »
While winter around the Chesapeake Bay is known for oysters and striped bass, summertime means blue crabs. If you enjoyed steamed crabs from Maryland this summer, you may have consumed crabs harvested by watermen involved in a ground-breaking test of technology to improve long-term blue crab management.
The Maryland Blue Crab Accountability Pilot program – a collaborative effort among commercial watermen called the Blue Crab Design Team, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and other partners – was designed to test electronic daily harvest reporting in order to gather more accurate and timely harvest information. From mid-July through the end of Maryland’s commercial crabbing season in mid-November, some 50 commercial crabbers, ranging in age from 25 – 75, tested the use of hand-held technologies like cell phones, smartphones and tablets, to report blue crab harvest daily.
Sustainable fisheries management requires sound science and accurate harvest and effort information. Current reporting relies on monthly paper reports and manual data entry that can take months to process. Daily electronic harvest reporting can improve the accuracy of harvest data, and result in real-time harvest information for in-season management decision-making. Read More »
Last night the House and Senate agreed to compromise language on a broad set of initiatives referred to as the transportation bill. Included in this “must-pass” bill is legislation dealing with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill known as the RESTORE Act. There is much to applaud in this bill; for example, it provides important funding for fisheries science and research. It’s too bad it also contains an empty political gesture against a fishery management tool that has benefitted the Gulf’s fishermen.
The RESTORE Act directs the penalties received by the federal government as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster to the affected region, including, at Senator Nelson’s particular insistence, providing funding for research to “support . . . the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, fish stocks, fish habitat, and the recreational, commercial, and charter fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.” At a time of scarce funds and great need, this effort will help the marine resources and fishermen of the Gulf recover from the blow they suffered two years ago.
Unfortunately, the bill also contains a gratuitous slap at the region’s fishermen by prohibiting the use of the funds provided in the bill for the development or approval of new catch share programs along the east coast or the Gulf of Mexico. The catch share language echoes an amendment previously offered by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) – but here it means absolutely nothing given a separate prohibition on using the money for any form of fisheries regulation. Read More »
In a disappointing move for the environment and the fishing industry, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a rider that would effectively ban new federal catch shares for fisheries in the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.
Thanks in large part to catch shares, many fisheries in the United States have been turning a corner after decades of overfishing, massive job losses and closures. Fish caught in catch shares currently account for about half of the value and over three quarters of the volume of commercial landings in federal waters.
Some fisheries still under conventional management have not yet recovered, causing fishermen to suffer. This misguided rider would thwart progress and take a proven tool off the table for struggling fishermen and regional fishery management councils.
The rider was approved by a vote of 220-191, a smaller margin than when a similar rider was approved last year by a vote of 259-159. More members of Congress have come to oppose a ban because they want to make our oceans more sustainable for the fish and fishermen. Read More »
Every year, the Maryland Watermen's Association hosts a commercial fishermen and aquaculture trade expo attracting hundreds of fishermen and watermen from along the east coast. This year’s recent 38th annual Expo in Ocean City, MD included an exhibit from the Maryland Blue Crab Design Team. The Design Team, an industry-led task force EDF helped organize, participated in the expo for the opportunity to keep the larger watermen community informed and gain feedback on the collective process to develop long-term solutions for Maryland’s blue crab industry.
Twenty-four Design Team members spoke with over 100 interested watermen and other stakeholders about the Design Team’s vision and goals. Most recently the Team has been developing a pilot program to test electronic reporting technologies to advance watermen accountability in the fishery and promote the health of the blue crab resource and the businesses that depend on it. This pilot aims to improve the timing and accuracy of harvest data to fisheries managers. It will mark a major step forward in building a more sustainable fishery leading to a more viable future for the blue crab industry. The pilot project is expected to be up and running by midyear. Read More »
Johnny Shockley, business partners and member of the Dorchester County, MD Chamber of Commerce.
The Chesapeake commercial fishing community is full of practical, hard-working businessmen and women who overcome weather, regulatory challenges, and market obstacles every day. Some go even further to combine their grit and drive with innovation and vision to create a business that leverages the allure of Chesapeake seafood and new market opportunities. Johnny Shockley, a career waterman from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, is doing just that.
Johnny began oystering with his dad and grandfather at the age of 12. For the last 35 years, he has worked on the water making his living by harvesting the Chesapeake’s blue crabs, fish and oysters. Recognizing the growing challenges to his industry and family heritage, Johnny realized that he needed to “think outside of the box” to create new business opportunities for his family.
After over three years of hard work and planning, Johnny and his business partner, Ricky Fitzugh, officially launched Hooper’s Island Oyster Aquaculture, Inc., home of Chesapeake Gold Oysters. Last year, Hooper’s Island Oyster Aquaculture, Inc. bought 1 million oyster larvae, grew them to market size over the past 12 months and is now selling the seafood delicacy throughout the Washington, DC area. This year, they expanded to four million more larvae. Read More »