Selected category: Pacific

Fishing smarter can save lives

fishing safetyNPR’s Planet Money recently featured the Alaska Halibut fishery in a compelling story of how the commercial catch share system has dramatically improved safety for fishermen while preventing overfishing, ensuring a higher quality product, and allowing fishermen the time to invest in their fishing businesses.

Before the catch share, seasons were increasingly shortened until fishermen were forced to race against each other in 24 hour derbies—often risking their lives and their equipment.  After the new rules were put in place, fishermen were given a total number of fish they could catch, rather than being constrained by a short time window. The catch share program is part of the reason why the Coast Guard reported zero operational related commercial fishing fatalities in Alaska in Fiscal Year 2015.

Fishing is inherently dangerous but it’s still important to look at the several ways to make it safer. Inspections, the use of safety gear and training all make a difference. So can the way fishing regulations attempt to address overfishing. Read More »

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CFF Supports New Fishing Community-Led Nonprofit in Monterey


Since launching in 2008, the California Fisheries Fund (CFF) has made 30 low-interest loans—ranging from $50,000 to $350,000 — providing fishermen and sustainable fishing businesses with the capital needed to upgrade boats, purchase equipment and improve their business operations.

Our recent loan to the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust—a new community-led non-profit dedicated to securing groundfish fishing rights in the Monterey Bay region—provided the organization with vital seed money to enable its establishment.

“Our loan from the CFF has been critical to our organization’s early development” said Sherry Flumerfelt, Executive Director, Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust. “With the quota we were able to buy; we can lease to local fishermen, generate lease revenues and build on the success of sustainable fisheries management.”

With its new CFF loan, the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust will be better equipped to serve a community of local, family-owned fishing businesses; ease the burden on new entrants– making it easier for new fishermen to lease quota with flexible terms; and support a personalized, one-stop-shop leasing system that provides quick and improved services for fishermen.

The Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust acquired more than $1 million in commercial groundfish quota from The Nature Conservancy. This transaction coupled with the CFF loan and The Monterey City Council’s pledge to use $225,000 from the city’s Tidelands Trust Fund to acquire fishing rights to be managed by the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust–will allow hundreds of thousands of pounds of groundfish to be caught under a sustainable fishery management program.

In 2011, this program, “catch shares," went into effect for more than 60 species of West Coast groundfish (e.g., sole, rockfish) and has achieved significant conservation goals. The new program has generated impressive conservation results:

  • In 2014, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program moved 21 species of West Coast fish to sustainable status
  • The Marine Stewardship Council certified the fishery sustainable, emphasizing the important role that the catch share program played in recovering the fishery.

The Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust enhances the West Coast program, maintaining historic fishing access in Monterey Bay and supporting the communities that rely on it (Moss Landing, Monterey and Santa Cruz). CFF is fortunate to support the Monterey Bay fishing community and advance the vision of the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust, securing the profitability and sustainability of Monterey Bay for many generations to come.

To learn more about CFF’s loan to the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust, listen to my radio interview.

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Canary rockfish rebound dramatically: 40 years ahead of schedule


Photo credit: Noëlle Yochum

At this week’s meeting in Spokane, WA, the Pacific Fishery Management Council made the good news official. Canary rockfish – a long-lived species declared overfished in 2000, has been “rebuilt.”

At the same meeting, Petrale sole, one of the marquee species on the West Coast, was also declared rebuilt. “Rebuilt” status simply means that the population of the fish has increased to a level above what is needed to sustain a healthy population. This target is set by the Council and aims to support maximum sustainable yield in the fishery.

Under the initial rebuilding plan, populations of the bright orange and pink Canary rockfish were not expected to be rebuilt until 2057, so this rapid progress – attributed to a combination of favorable ocean conditions and strict conservation measures enacted under the West Coast’s catch share fishery management system – comes as particularly welcome news.

Canary are one of the so-called “choke species” on the West Coast, meaning that assigned catch quotas of these fish are so small that fishermen have been effectively prevented from accessing large swaths of fishing grounds where plentiful target species co-mingle with Canary.

In adapting to those low quotas and avoiding Canary rockfish in the first four years of the catch share program, fishermen have been instrumental in this major conservation win. When quotas for Canary are adjusted to reflect the six-fold increase in their population, fishermen will be less constrained in fishing those areas, and larger quantities of certified-sustainable fish will hit the docks in Washington, Oregon and California.  EDF will continue working with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Pacific Fishery Management Council to see that those quotas are adjusted as soon as possible.


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End of 2014 Brings More Good News for West Coast Fishermen

Photo  by Corey Arnold

Photo by Corey Arnold

Followers of this blog have already heard about major milestones that West Coast groundfish trawl fishermen achieved during 2014. In June, the Marine Stewardship Council recognized the remarkable progress made in this catch share fishery over the last decade, and certified 13 trawl-caught species as sustainable. In October, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program upgraded 21 trawl species to sustainable status, helping to change perceptions and opening up potential new market opportunities for West Coast trawlers.

While supply-chain and consumer perceptions gradually adjust to recognize those positive realities, many groundfish fishermen are still struggling to hang on and make a living. Helping reduce their operating costs so that fishing can become more profitable has been a primary focus of our West Coast team, and now we can celebrate a win on that front with the passage of S. 1275, the Revitalizing the Economy of Fisheries in the Pacific Act, also known as the REFI Pacific Act. Read More »

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From a Federal Disaster to the World Series: West Coast trawl fishermen are turning their fishery around

Astoria, Oregon fisherman Kevin Dunn is familiar to EDF’s Pacific Ocean team because we worked with him closely to redesign fishing nets and reduce bycatch. Now he’s becoming familiar to millions of others through a Whole Foods Market commercial that debuted during the World Series.

The Whole Foods ad is a great illustration of a simple but powerful idea: well-designed fishery management systems can not only result in conservation gains and a healthier environment, but also economic gains for the people that rely on the ocean for their livelihood.

This has been a big year for fishermen in the West Coast groundfish catch share program. It received a sustainability certification from the Marine Stewardship Council and an upgrade in sustainability ratings from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program for many of the fish they catch. When the MSC certified the fishery sustainable, it noted that this was the most diverse and complex fishery ever considered for certification, and emphasized the important role that catch shares played in recovering the fishery.

The fact that Kevin and his crew now represent the very best in sustainable seafood sourcing is remarkable, and very hopeful. In 2000, the fishery was formally declared a disaster due to decades-long mismanagement. EDF worked with fishermen and seafood suppliers to turn this fishery around by advancing new management solutions, including catch shares. We also provided tools to help fishermen and suppliers through the transition — such as innovative new lending mechanisms like the California Fisheries Fund. Today their trawl catch is “independently rated for sustainability; traceable from dock to store” and they are part of a durable industry that supplies about 250 million pounds of sustainable seafood every year.

Kevin and his boat the Iron Lady are also featured in a 3-minute YouTube video with Whole Foods supplier Bornstein Seafoods, the company to which Kevin delivers his catch. It’s a nice glimpse of what our West Coast fishermen friends do for a living and the positive relationships that often emerge after catch shares go into effect. In traditionally managed fisheries it’s unusual to see fishermen partnering closely with seafood processors. But with improved fishery management comes closer cooperation and new possibilities for partnerships between fishermen and seafood buyers.

In addition to forming partnerships, fishermen are able to spend more time innovating with their gear and carefully planning their businesses. The net you see spilling its catch onto the Iron Lady’s deck is one we helped Kevin test. It has a built-in excluder device that allows halibut – a non-target species for Kevin – to escape unharmed. Another example of a solution that works for fish and fishermen!


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From ‘Avoid’ to ‘Enjoy’: West Coast Groundfish Completes Sustainability Sweep

© Monterey Bay Aquarium

© Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, considered by many to be the ultimate arbiter of sustainability for the U.S. seafood market, has released five new reports on the West Coast groundfish fishery. In these new assessments they concluded that almost 40 types of rockfish, sole and other fish species – representing virtually all groundfish caught on the West Coast – are now considered sustainable seafood choices.

This announcement comes on the heels of another sustainability milestone for this fishery. Just two months ago, a large portion of the same fishery was also certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

This was not always the case. The fishery was declared a federal disaster in 2000. After years of overfishing and declining productivity, the fishing industry began working with Environmental Defense Fund experts and federal regulators to design a new management system that better aligned the interests of fishermen and fish populations. Read More »

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