Selected category: Policy

Working together to address challenges in Swedish fisheries

iphone-1005Sweden, along with the rest of the EU, is tackling the challenge of phasing out the discarding of fish. While Sweden is a relatively small fishing nation in relation to our Scandinavian neighbours, the conditions for sustainable fisheries and co-management structures are strong. This is especially true after a recent fishermen-led collaboration resulted in recommendations for a new management plan designed to meet the challenges of the discard ban while ensuring a prosperous future for their businesses.

The word “co-management” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. This is especially true when it comes to policymaking processes. I have been working closely with fishermen to improve fisheries management for three years. In this blog post I want to illustrate what co-management means to me and my work and why I believe it is so important to recognize that fishermen are at the centre of lasting solutions.


Setting the stage for collaboration:

With EDF looking to drive positive change in fisheries management across Europe, and strong prospects for meaningful reform in Sweden, I recently moved back to my home country to lead this work. Before this, Environmental Defense Fund had organised a fisheries exchange to British Colombia for Swedish fishermen and managers, showcasing the local methods of fishery management and offering an opportunity for our Swedish group to quiz Canadian fishermen on their experiences with their system.

Building on this exchange, and from my new base in Gothenburg, we held follow-up meetings with all those who took part to identify key take-home messages and next steps as well as how these ideas might be applicable in the Swedish context. One important take-home message from the exchange, for fishermen and managers alike, was how well the managers and the fishermen in British Colombia worked together. Fishermen were seen as natural partners and critical participants in the decision-making process.

With this experience in mind, Peter Olsson—a Swedish fisherman partner who is well known within the industry—and I, with huge support from EDF staff and associates, initiated a co-management process in Sweden.


The challenge: successfully implement the European Union’s Landing Obligation

iphone-1039The landing obligation (or ‘discard ban’) requires the fishermen to keep and land all quota species, including catch that would have previously been discarded due to lack of quota or value. To ensure input from fishermen when figuring out how to comply with this obligation, whilst maintaining sustainable, profitable businesses, we asked the fishermen’s organisations to identify members that represented a wide variety of gear types, areas and vessel sizes from four key Swedish fisheries.

These members then constituted four working groups that were given a weighty task: develop recommendations for a quota management system that – crucially – didn’t put the small-scale fleet at risk while also ensuring that large-scale vessels, subject to the landing obligation, could secure a future in fishing.

Government participation was vital to ensuring a fruitful outcome to the co-management process, so it was of huge importance that the Swedish Marine Agency took part in meetings with the group throughout. They offered valuable insight into what was legally possible, and were able to share experiences from previous quota management changes.


A new management plan designed by fishermen:

A testament to the success of this process: recommendations jointly developed, in a process led for and by fishermen, have formed the foundation of a public consultation on a new demersal management system for key Swedish fisheries. This was published last month by the Marine Agency for public comment, and the new system is expected to be introduced on the water from January 2017. This case was successful because fishermen saw a challenge that needed to be resolved, and they realized that their participation in finding a solution was the best way forward for everyone involved.

Looking ahead to the new management system, we know it won’t be perfect, and not every fisherman will be happy, but it is now far more accepted in the fishing community than it would have been because fishermen were involved from the beginning, were assured that no fleet segment was overlooked or disadvantaged in the creation of this policy, and gained a sense of ownership over it. This is a huge positive step forward because not only will this increase understanding and acceptance as well as the probability of compliance with the new system, it will also likely perform better as it is grounded in what fishermen know works on the water, not on what sounds good within the four walls of an office.

That to me is co-management: putting the practitioners front and centre in crafting the solution, and enabling them to work together with managers to address challenges facing a fishery. This collaboration, with clear mandates and high level objectives, leads to more efficient and successful fisheries management.  I am now relishing the challenge of seeing this system operate successfully on the water, and supporting Swedish fishermen in a sustainable future, built on their own terms.

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New Management Measures Needed in Essential Tuna Fisheries

img_6322-002Tuna are one of the most iconic fish species, recognized all over the world for their importance ecologically, economically and culturally. As top predators, tuna—like sharks—are extremely important in structuring and regulating marine ecosystems, which in turn helps make the ocean more resilient to a changing climate and other stressors.  Tuna are one of the most popular seafood products consumed around the world, but at present almost half (46%) of global tuna stocks are overfished or are slightly overfished[1].

Given the importance of the species, and the challenges facing them, setting clear management goals and mechanisms to achieve these goals is necessary to ensure the long term viability of Pacific tuna fisheries. Read More »

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The time is now: Solutions for lasting change in Upper Gulf of California

Photo: Carlos Aguilera

Photo: Carlos Aguilera

We are deeply concerned about the future of the vaquita marina, a small porpoise endemic to Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California.  Long on the brink of extinction, the vaquita is facing an additional threat due to rampant poaching of an endangered fish – the totoaba – whose swim bladder is prized in Asian cuisine, and whose future is also imperiled. The situation is now dire with scientists estimating that fewer than 60 vaquita may now exist, escalating the urgency for action. Not only are the futures of vaquita and totoaba at stake, but also the future of thousands of legal fishermen whose livelihoods are uncertain as the government proposes management changes to address the threats to vaquita.

In July, President Peña Nieto and President Obama called for a permanent ban on gillnets in the Upper Gulf region where vaquita are found, the development of alternative gear to ensure that legal fishing in the Upper Gulf does not interact with vaquita, and bilateral coordination on enforcement to eliminate illegal trafficking of totoaba. The Mexican government has made initial strides, and this week the Mexican Senate Fisheries Committee convened Upper Gulf stakeholders to provide a platform for discussion of the critical issues at hand.

We commend both governments for understanding the urgency and importance of these issues, and for announcing efforts focused on fisheries gear improvements. However, these actions alone are not enough. What’s most important is to end the illegal poaching of totoaba. As long as poaching continues, vaquita continue to risk death as a result of entanglement in totoaba nets and further, the already depleted totoaba population will continue to decline. Read More »

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The State of U.S. Fisheries is Strong

rp_iStock_000014104307Medium-1024x680.jpgWe have a lot to be proud of in the United States when it comes to fisheries management. This week the New York Times highlighted the comeback of U.S. fisheries with an inspiring story of recovery. And today, NOAA Fisheries released its annual Status of Stocks report, confirming that the management reforms implemented over the last decade are continuing to deliver remarkable results.

For fish geeks, the annual Status of Stocks report is our “State of the Union." It’s an opportunity to take a big-picture look at where things stand, as well as to consider at a more granular level specific regions and fisheries where further reforms may be needed.

At a big-picture level, today’s report is another clear indication that “the state of our fisheries is strong." Indeed, it reveals that in 2015 the Fish Stock Sustainability Index (FSSI) – the composite index that tracks the health of key commercial and recreational stocks that account for 85% of total catch – hit an all-time high. The relentless upward march of the index since 2000 is stunning, and reflects the success of fishermen, managers and conservationists working region by region, fishery by fishery, to end unsustainable open-access management and implement reforms that incentivize conservation. Read More »

Also posted in Domestic, New England, Pacific, Seafood| Tagged , , | Comments are closed

Solutions for recreational red snapper not found in other fisheries

red snapper

Credit: Gulf Wild

The Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery has undergone a tremendous recovery over the last eight years. Thanks to reformed commercial management the stock is rebounding strongly, and as a result this year’s quota is the highest on record. Unfortunately, recreational fishermen have not fully benefited, since their failed management system creates a cycle of shorter and shorter seasons. There are many competing attempts to address this very real problem, including several in Congress.

This week a U.S. House subcommittee will hold a hearing on H.R. 3094, a bill that proposes to transfer management for Gulf of Mexico red snapper to a new authority made up of the directors of the Gulf state fish and wildlife agencies. Some advocates of this approach, which we oppose, have suggested that the states successfully manage striped bass in the mid-Atlantic and Dungeness crab in the Pacific, and therefore transferring management of red snapper to the Gulf States is a good idea.

But these arguments gloss over important differences between red snapper and these other species, making the comparison about as real as most good fish stories. Read More »

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New England Fisheries Need A New Roadmap

Atlantic cod

Atlantic Cod; Photo Credit: NOAA

In yesterday’s  New York Times, Oceana’s Gib Brogan raised serious concerns in an Opinion piece, “A Knockout Blow for American Fish Stocks,” about both the future facing New England cod and the New England Management Council’s stewardship of the region’s fisheries resource. We share many of Gib’s concerns.

Fisheries management is too often presented as a choice between protecting the environment, on the one hand, and the economic interests of fishermen and coastal communities on the other. But we know from our experience in United States that the two are inextricably linked. With many fisheries around the country rebounding, fishermen are among the primary beneficiaries as catch limits increase. Conversely in New England, the collapse of cod presents a significant challenge to coastal fishing businesses; and the recent initiatives of the council on habitat and monitoring are dangerous precisely because they further jeopardize the fishery’s long-term prospects. Read More »

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