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.
[Video credit: Archipelago, NMFS and Frank Mirarchi- FV Barbara Peters]
Collecting timely, accurate and complete information from fishing vessels is fundamental to successful fisheries management. There is an important nexus between the quantity and quality of data collected by monitoring programs that are used for fisheries science and management that makes it more credible to industry and other stakeholders.
EDF continues to work to improve the performance of New England groundfish sectors by supporting the design and implementation of a cost-effective and comprehensive monitoring program that incorporates the use of electronic monitoring (EM). The current crisis facing the groundfish fishery with low stock abundance and resulting quota cuts, and high uncertainty of stock assessments, highlights the need to produce reliable fisheries information. Read More »
Photo Credit: New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance
As fishermen around New England will be the first to point out, this summer, much like last year, has been abnormal. The ocean waters were warmer and cod, haddock, and flounders—the mainstay of our fishing industry for centuries—are increasingly elusive. There’s plenty of blame to go around, including decades of mismanagement and overfishing, inexact science and a mismatch in abundance of certain predatory species. Looking beyond these factors, the impact of climate change on fisheries is another factor driving fish abundance that’s worth a hard look.
The level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has now exceeded 400 parts per million, contributing to rising ocean temperatures. Some of the fastest increases in the last few decades have occurred in the Northwest Atlantic, and 2012 registered the largest annual increase in mean sea surface temperature for the Northwest Atlantic in the last 30 years.
It is clear that climate change is disrupting New England’s fisheries right now; it is no longer an abstract, future scenario.
In the face of this evidence, fisheries managers need to factor in climate change alongside fishing effort and other elements when determining how to manage and rebuild fish stocks. The impacts of climate change can prevent fisheries management inactions from rebuilding fish populations, and conversely, excess fishing pressure can hinder the ability of a fish population to adapt to changes in climate. As I have written recently, a network of well-designed closed areas represents a promising management strategy to address the effect of climate change on fisheries. Read More »
Eating with the Ecosystem is a project created to help consumers learn about the marine waters from which New England seafood is harvested. The project aims to build upon related efforts focused on sustainable seafood and eating local by urging consumers to think about the suite of species living together in a given place, and their ecological interactions and fluctuations in abundance. In other words, their mission is to grow awareness of individual species to awareness of the entire ecosystem.
One important message of Eating with the Ecosystem is that consumers should focus on healthy stocks so that we benefit from abundance while allowing other resources to recover. Today, this means being willing to try species that are unfamiliar to many seafood lovers. As we work to recover well-known species like cod and flounder, species such as dogfish, skates, hake, pollock and redfish present opportunities to offset lost revenue for fishermen, and for diners to try some new tastes. Fortunately, based on the results of a poll conducted collaboratively by EDF and the Center for Marketing Research at UMass-Dartmouth, consumers seem willing to give those species a chance. Read More »
Today’s ‘Fish on Friday’ post will be a little bit different. Rather than focusing on a single species or fisherman, we want to highlight a growing movement and event to celebrate lesser known fish species and support New England fishermen—who need the support now more than ever.
With substantial catch reductions looming for Atlantic cod and several other popular species, you might think that buying sustainable, local seafood would be more challenging than ever. However there are many other healthy fish populations in New England’s waters, and with a little creativity, they could become staples of your seafood repertoire.
Sometimes called “trash fish,” underutilized fish species such as redfish, hake, Atlantic pollock and sea robin, have long taken a back seat on fishing vessels and restaurant menus to more popular species, such as cod. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your attention. Read More »
The court found that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had adequately considered the impact of the program and taken the proper steps to accomplish its goals, including environmental conservation, increasing economic benefits and holding fishermen accountable for staying within catch limits.
The three judge panel noted that, rather than destroying smaller business, many believe the new rules provide better protection. The judges also said federal regulators installed the law properly. "The Secretary (of Commerce's) judgments here were derived from the record, rational, and not based on any error of law," the court wrote. Read the full opinion here.
Photo Credit: Natacha Hardy. Alex Koeberle and Scituate Fisherman Frank Mirarchi
By: Alex Koeberle and Jake Kritzer
Following the hottest summer ever on record, the Atlantic coast was rocked recently by super storm Sandy, both stark reminders that climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. This year had already seen effects of climate change take on a more prominent place in marine conservation debates. In July, renowned Australian ecologist Dr. Roger Bradbury argued that the fate of coral reefs is essentially sealed due to warming waters, rising seas, acidification and extreme weather (although other prominent voices were quick to counter such doomsday predictions). Closer to home, an effort to restore Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River was ended after nearly a half-century, in part because changing ocean currents, temperature regimes and plankton production might be impairing the ability of salmon to survive at sea and migrate back to spawn.
It is not only salmon that are contending with effects of climate change in New England. The region is seeing sea levels rising faster than many other places around the globe, which threatens to drown salt marshes already struggling with excessive nutrient loads. Marshes help buffer coastal areas against storm surge, and provide vital nursery and feeding grounds for many important fish species. Ocean waters are not only rising but warming as well, one consequence of which has been a dramatic shift in the distribution of cod north of the primary fishing grounds in the western Gulf of Maine. Also, rainfall patterns are becoming increasingly erratic, altering salinity profiles and plankton production, which hampers productivity of species throughout the food web. Read More »
On November 9 the New England groundfish industry will have an opportunity to discuss the state of fishery science with scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The workshop in Portsmouth, NH responds to criticism generated by abrupt changes in scientific evaluations of the status of fish stocks that support fishing communities from Maine to New Jersey. The goal of the meeting is to improve assessments by sharing knowledge among fishermen and scientists.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) supports greater involvement of fishermen in the stock assessment process and encourages fishermen to work with scientists to ensure that their knowledge and experience add to our understanding of these valuable resources. EDF has developed recommendations aimed at producing the most dependable stock assessments possible. The accumulated knowledge of the fishing industry can contribute to improved stock assessments, and greater industry participation can increase confidence in fishery science.
The first priority is to expand the fleet of potential survey vessels by augmenting surveys by government boats with more extensive surveys using commercial fishing vessels. We believe this is the single most important step that can be taken to improve the reliability of stock assessments and confidence in those assessments. Read More »