Category Archives: Pacific

CFF Advances Sustainability Vision of Local Morro Bay Community

[Hear more about CFF from fishermen]

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.”

Andrea Lueker, Executive Director at the Morro Bay Community Quota Fund shared her thoughts about the transaction:

“We look forward to helping local fishermen continue their sustainable fishing businesses and we especially aim to help young local fishermen get started. We appreciate everything that the California Fisheries Fund and The Nature Conservancy have done to help us launch the Quota Fund.”

The mission of the CFF has always been to support fishermen’s goals of being stewards of the resource as they transition to or continue sustainable fishing practices. Many other organizations and individuals have reached out to us for help in achieving similar goals. In response to these requests, we’ve outlined the journey of the CFF through a video series and brief paper. In sharing our story, we hope to continue a rich dialogue about sustainable fishery management and investing in fishery conservation.

Learn more about Morro Bay’s fishing story: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/07/us/creating-a-safe-harbor-for-a-village-heritage.html?_r=0

 

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New Video Series: California Fisheries Fund Helps Finance Sustainable Fishing

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:

A brief paper on the CFF,Investing in sustainable fishing” that highlights its history, challenges and successes

A three-part CFF video series:

  1. California Fisheries Fund: Investing in Sustainable Fishing: CFF borrowers share their stories about how they used loans to improve the sustainability and profitability of their fishing businesses.
  2. Reflecting on Our Growth: Vision to Implementation: Founders of the CFF discuss how the fund started, how it reduced risk and highlighted the opportunities for growth in the fisheries finance world.
  3.  Looking Ahead: The West Coast fishing industry has seen great benefits as a result of its transformational fishery management approaches and the California Fisheries Fund's support of sustainable fishing practices. Continued research, innovation, funding and faith in the fishing industry will help fishermen, fishing organizations and the industry as a whole succeed.

As the interest in financing fisheries continues to bud and its dialogue becomes richer, we will continue to share our story in hopes of inspiring others to invest in fishery conservation.

 

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West Coast Groundfish Get Certified Sustainable: A Local Fishery Success Story

 

Pacific rockfish (Photograph by NOAA FishWatch)

Pacific rockfish (Photograph by NOAA FishWatch)

[Re-posted with permission from National Geographic]


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

The fishery’s recent success can be traced back to a few factors. In 2011 the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) instituted a ‘catch share’ program, which was developed over several years by a broad range of stakeholders, including commercial fishermen, fishery managers, and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). (Full disclosure: I work for EDF.) At the same time, this new management plan established a system of 100 percent catch monitoring, which ensured that every fish that came over the rail was accounted for.

Taken together, and recognized by the MSC certification, these measures have drastically reduced bycatch (also known as unwanted or untargeted catch), limited the take of sensitive depleted species, and sparked innovation throughout the fishery. Even better, the changes apply to the entire trawl fishery in California, Oregon, and Washington, accounting for approximately 40 million pounds in landings in 2013.

If you’re not familiar with catch shares, they succeed by giving fishermen a financial stake in their fishery’s future in exchange for greater accountability. By doing so, fishermen avoid and can actually reverse the “tragedy of the commons,” in which too many boats chase—and inevitably over-harvest—steadily dwindling fish stocks.

Brad Pettinger, a lifelong fisherman and director of the Oregon Trawl Commission, coordinated the fishing industry’s effort to gain MSC certification.  “West coast trawl fishermen are extremely proud to have met these stringent criteria for sustainability,” says Pettinger. “And with the unhurried fishing season that we have under catch shares, we’ve dramatically reduced bycatch.”

 

Bouncing Back From Disaster

Remembering a January 2000 federal disaster declaration in his fishery, Pettinger says, “Fifteen years ago they wrote the obituary for this fishery. Ten years ago we started working on a rationalized management plan, and three years ago we put it in place. That was the watershed moment, and now we’re demonstrating that we can be good stewards of an amazing public resource. We could not be happier or more proud.”

Shems Jud, who leads EDF Oceans’ Pacific team, has worked to rebuild Pacific groundfish stocks alongside fishermen like Pettinger for seven years. He believes that 100 percent monitoring is probably the single greatest change in the fishery, but one that does not come cheap.

Those federal observers cost hundreds of dollars a day and many west coast fishing businesses already operate on razor-thin margins. Still, what they gain with a federal observer is accountability, and in a seafood marketplace that increasingly rewards sustainable fishing practices, that can create market leverage.

 

Looking Forward

Dover sole (Photograph by NOAA FishWatch)

Dover sole (Photograph by NOAA FishWatch)

“MSC’s certification may assist in that respect,” continues Jud. “For the fishermen who have adapted to an entirely new management regime and increased operating costs, we are optimistic that this recognition will result in new and stronger market opportunities.”

To help keep operating costs in check, the Pacific Fishery Management Council is beginning a process that may one day replace human observers with electronic monitoring (EM) systems.

“That’s become a huge priority for us,” Jud added. “In order for this catch share program to endure and succeed, fishermen have to survive economically. EM may help reduce their costs and buy them just enough time so the benefits of the new program, such as MSC certification, catch up with their day-to-day business realities.”

So over the coming months we hope and expect that the seafood industry will embrace this fishery success story and amplify the hard work of west coast IFQ fishermen. And while it may take these fish a little time to make it into the inventories of markets and restaurants near you, I hope you’ll join me in seeking out these local, sustainable Pacific groundfish species when you buy seafood, because adding 40 million pounds of certified, sustainable product to the market is definitely a cause for celebration.

 

 

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California Fisheries Fund Grants Loans to Local Dungeness Fishermen

Dan Durbin

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.

Both Don and Dan’s CFF loans coincide with the transition to a crab pot limit program. Under the new pot limit, the maximum number of pots that can be fished by each vessel is set at between 175 and 500. Both Don and Dan have 250-pot limits.  This management change brings California’s regulations on par with Oregon and Washington, leveling the playing field between the three states where there is often cross-over in fishing effort. The hope is that the new regulation will reduce fishing capacity, decrease competition on the water, increase safety and reduce the amount of lost gear in the sea.

This is a pivotal time for California crab. While questions still remain regarding the effectiveness of the new regulations’ ability to slow down derby fishing we’re happy that the fishery is taking the necessary steps toward sustainability by addressing the over-capacity and excessive fishing effort it has faced for so long. We are also thrilled to see this all stem from a collaborative effort between fishermen and policymakers and are even more thrilled to help fishermen transition to pot limits through our CFF loans.

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A new dawn for Pacific whiting fishery

photo credit: willapalens via photopin cc

photo credit: willapalens via photopin cc

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.

In 2011, the first year of the Pacific Groundfish catch share program  West Coast whiting fishermen landed 40% more fish than in 2010 and earned more than twice their average profit in the past (2011 NOAA Report). Already a low-bycatch fishery, in 2011 the whiting fleet bycatch of rebuilding groundfish decreased by almost 100% in some species. Although the 2012 whiting quota was lower than 2011 (which had been a banner year), the whiting fishery continued its trend toward extremely low bycatch (2012 NOAA Report).

The court’s decision keeps the fishery on the path to environmental and economic success and protects control dates as an important tool to prevent further overcapitalization as catch shares are developed.  The court’s decision also aligned with the opinion of many groundfish fishermen and processors who have testified in support of the catch share program and would have suffered if the control date had been struck down. Read the full decision here.

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Monitoring with an eye towards cost-effectiveness in the Pacific Groundfish fishery

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.

 

Preliminary EM Research Results:

Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSFMC) has overseen EM research with various portions of the groundfish fleet since March 2012.  Results of the 2012 research from whiting (midwater trawl) and shoreside groundfish (longline, pot and trap) vessels were released at the Pacific Fisheries Management Council meeting in June 2013, highlighting key factors to be considered to ensure successful deployment of EM, including:

  1. Hardware makes a difference.  Digital cameras (as opposed to analog cameras) facilitate the accurate identification of fish species.  Vessels will also need to have an adequate power supply to avoid situations necessitating powering down an EM system during a fishing trip.
  2. Communication is key.  Feedback between data analysts/program managers and the captain/crew is needed to ensure: catch handling protocols are appropriate for the vessel and the camera locations; equipment is properly maintained; and that cameras are not obstructed during fishing operations.  This collaboration is essential for developing vessel-specific monitoring plans.
  3. Define your terms.  A clear definition and expectation of what constitutes “catch” and “discard” is necessary to accurately compare EM and observer collected data.
  4. Data drives it.  The duration of a fishing trip and fishing activities will determine the amount of data to be recorded and stored.  Knowing data storage needs in advance will ensure hard drive capacity is not exceeded, which can result in the inadvertent loss of data.
  5. Size matters.  Knowing the dimensions of the vessel and fishing gear can assist data reviewers in calculating volumetric estimates of catch.

 

Next Steps:

PSMFC and Archipelago Marine Research are currently working with 14 fishing vessels to continue EM research.  Likewise, the Pacific Fishery Management Council is on track to tackle regulatory aspects of implementing EM in the groundfish fishery.  Starting this week, the Pacific Fishery Management Council is meeting to adopt a range of alternatives for EM regulations, with the goal of implementing electronic monitoring for major segments of the groundfish catch share fishery by January 1, 2015.  To accomplish this work, the Council established two ad-hoc EM advisory committees, one of which I serve on along with stakeholders from the Pacific Groundfish fishery.  A calendar of the Pacific Council’s EM-related work can be found here.

Although a timeline has been established, much work remains to complete the Pacific regional implementation plan and resolve some of the logistical and political challenges to putting a fully operational EM program in place.  Given the importance of fishery-dependent data to fishery management, and the need for cost-efficient means to monitor fishing activities, EDF will continue to support the adoption of EM and other technological solutions in the Pacific and nationally.

 

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Maximizing Limited Data to Improve Fishery Management

By Ashley Apel

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.  

Download the guide on Science-Based Management of Data-Limited Fisheries or download the entire toolkit for fisheries.  Feel free to send questions or comments to catchsharequestions@edf.org.

Also posted in Alaska, Catch Shares, Cuba, EDF Oceans General, Global Fisheries, Latin America & Caribbean, Mexico, Mid-Atlantic, New England, Science/Research, South Atlantic| Comments closed

New management plan continues to yield conservation & economic benefits in Pacific groundfishery: NOAA report

fishery observer

WCGOP Observer
Photo Credit: NOAA Report, supplied by Sean Sullivan

On September 24, NOAA Fisheries released their report on the second year (2012) of the West Coast Groundfish Catch Shares Program, a program that EDF has been instrumental in helping to develop, implement and improve. The report notes the spirit of partnership that helped bring a catch share management system to the Pacific Coast, and praises the program's conservation and economic performance. Mostly, however, NOAA credits fishermen for using the flexibility afforded under catch shares to improve their long-term economic prospects and avoid overfished species.

 

 

Here are some highlights:

  • Conservation: The report notes “a significant reduction in the amount of bycatch,” of overfished species, and concludes that the program “is actively rebuilding several groundfish stocks.”
  • Catch: Harvest of target stocks continues to improve—up 5% from 2011.
  • Business Flexibility: Transfers of quota between fishermen increased dramatically in comparison with 2011, and were relatively constant throughout the year. This increase indicates better understanding among fishermen of how to leverage their allotment for efficient business planning.

NOAA’s report also reflects the strong and growing interest among West Coast fishery stakeholders in transitioning from 100% observer coverage on groundfish boats to lower cost alternatives, like cameras, that will still ensure 100% accountability for all catch.

The West Coast catch shares program is still a work in progress, but NOAA’s analysis is very encouraging.

“The report from the second year reinforces what we’re seeing. There are a lot of positive things happening that provide a solid foundation for building on,” said Shems Jud, Deputy Director of EDF’s Pacific Ocean team. “By working with fishermen now to help lower their operating costs and expand fishing opportunity, we think this program can be made durable for the long-term, and eventually turn into a real economic success story.”

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