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 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 »
Yesterday, the New York Times featured a story about the new Morro Bay Community Quota Fund. With the help of a loan from EDF’s California Fisheries Fund (CFF), the Quota Fund was able to acquire fishing quota and five fishing permits from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), which the Quota Fund will lease to local fishermen to support a sustainable local fishing industry. Here at CFF we are excited to be involved in California’s first community purchase of fishing quota, contributing to the groundfish fishery’s continued environmental stewardship.
Several years ago, TNC bought these fishing permits and boats from fishermen who were interested in leaving the trawling business. TNC then leased trawl permits to fishermen who agreed to use non-trawl or low-impact trawl gear to catch the same fish with less habitat impact. This effort combined with EDF’s role in helping to get catch shares implemented for the rest of the West Coast groundfish trawl fleet has aided the fishery in bouncing back. In fact, the fishery was recently certified as sustainable and recognized by the Marine Stewardship Council as “the most diverse, complex fishery ever to enter assessment against MSC standard anywhere in the world.” Read More »
When we launched the California Fisheries Fund in 2008, it was unique and untested: a public-private partnership with the mission to make capital available to a growing sustainable commercial fishing industry. Since then, we’ve provided more than $2.5 million in loans to fishermen, fish buyers, processors and distributors enabling them to transition to or continue more sustainable fishing business practices. Many people and institutions have reached out to ask questions about our experience and story. Some organizations are considering establishing similar funds and they’ve asked for advice on how to get started.
In response to those and a growing number of requests, we’ve developed several resources that describe our experience establishing and managing the CFF: Read More »
Last year I had the privilege of sharing some good news from the sustainable seafood world, that the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery had finally shed its perpetual red list status. Today I get to do something similar, by applauding the U.S. West Coast Groundfish IFQ Trawl Fishery for its landmark turnaround and the announcement by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) that they have certified 13 species to their standards for sustainable fishing.
In their announcement, MSC noted that the West Coast Groundfish IFQ Trawl Fishery is “the most diverse, complex fishery ever to enter assessment against the MSC standard anywhere in the world.” The fishery includes west coast favorites like sablefish and petrale sole, along with first-of-their-kind species in the MSC program like lingcod, thornyheads, and several varieties of Pacific rockfish.
The MSC’s 400-page Final Report highlights several strengths of the West Coast Groundfish Trawl Fishery, which include:
The strong link between [stock] assessments and management actions
The management plan establishes individual accountability on the part of fishermen and delivers more complete data for fishery managers
Sensitive habitats are protected in areas of “essential fish habitat,” and additional areas deemed off-limits to bottom trawls
The management system is transparent and open to the public
The catch share program provides incentives for sustainable fishing Read More »
Dan Durbin standing next to his boat the Golden Girl
It’s the height of the much loved Dungeness crab season and the California Fisheries Fund (CFF) lent a helping hand to two Half Moon Bay, California fishermen just in time for them to participate in the fishing season.
Donald Marshall, a former plumber and HVAC technician, recently received a $90,000 loan from the CFF which helped him to buy a crab permit for his boat, the F/V Janet E. Donald, who has fished since the age of 5, fulfilled his life-long passion when he became a full-time fisherman three years ago. Don, the CFF’s fourteenth borrower, sells directly off the dock in Half Moon Bay at Pillar Point Harbor.
Dan Durbin, a former recreational fisherman and local business owner from San Jose, is also living his dream. With the help of a $154,000 loan, Dan purchased his first commercial fishing boat, the F/V Golden Girl, along with permits to fish for crab and salmon. Read More »
Yesterday, a federal court in California upheld the parameters that govern what fishing history is used to set allocations in the Pacific whiting fishery, one sector of the West Coast Groundfish IFQ Program
The decision in the Pacific Dawn litigation on pacific whiting quota share allocation is a win for the fishery and fishermen alike, and protects the integrity of management changes designed to provide for the long-term health of the fishery.
Control dates are established by NOAA to alert fishermen that fishing activity after the control date may not be taken into account when quota allocation decisions are made. As EDF legal staff argued at the hearing in early November, control dates are used to determine historic participation in the fishery, and help fishery managers allocate quota fairly amongst fishermen with a stake in the fishery. If fishery participants believe that the control dates will not be adhered to, they have an incentive to fish harder and more often as a catch share plan is considered, exacerbating overcapitalization just as managers are moving to reduce it.
Overturning the control dates would have destabilized the fishery at the same time the new management system is producing tremendous benefits. Read More »
In the Pacific, electronic monitoring (EM) research is currently focused on individual accountability of both catch and bycatch in the trawl catch share fishery. Since 2011, vessels in this fishery have been required to carry an on board observer. Additionally, the crew of each vessel operates a vessel monitoring system (VMS), submits logbooks, and reports 100% of landings. This comprehensive program, along with individual fishing quotas (IFQs), has proven to be an effective approach to managing the fishery. This success is evidenced by a decrease in catch of overfished and rebuilding species, as well as a significant reduction in unwanted catch, or “discards.”
Why Electronic Monitoring?
The West Coast Groundfish monitoring program is working well, but its high costs could push some of the smaller vessels out of the fishery, especially those that operate out of remote locations where it is difficult to deploy fisheries observers. EDF’s Pacific Ocean team, along with many other stakeholders, is working with the Pacific Fishery Management Council to identify and approve appropriate electronic monitoring options. The integration of EM into the Pacific groundfish monitoring program is expected to help reduce costs and increase operational flexibility while maintaining high levels of accountability. Read More »
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.