Category Archives: Policy

Lawsuits and lasting solutions for the Gulf’s red snapper fishery

For media inquiries please contact:

Matt Smelser, msmelser@edf.org, (512) 731-3023

EDF takes another step today in our decades-long pursuit of vibrant, productive fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico when we file an amicus brief in an ongoing lawsuit over the red snapper fishery. The issue at hand is whether NOAA violated federal law in its management of the recreational sector, allowing significant overharvesting and in so doing potentially jeopardizing one of the nation’s biggest success stories in fisheries recovery. It’s always unfortunate when fisheries challenges end up in the courtroom. In this instance, we hope that there’ll be a simultaneous uptake of tangible solutions that can improve recreational fishing opportunity while ensuring continued growth and recovery of the red snapper population. The good news is that Gulf fishermen, just as they have in the past, are coming forward with creative management ideas that we need for long-term success. We should build on that to forge greater cooperation and ensure everyone can share in the benefits of a thriving red snapper fishery.

In many ways the story of Gulf red snapper in recent years is one of remarkable accomplishment. Bold leadership from fishermen—and decisive action by the Gulf Fishery Management Council—put the depleted red snapper fishery on the path to recovery. Failed commercial fishery management was fixed with a catch share program that imposed individual accountability, reduced waste, and helped end chronic overfishing. This new system has yielded remarkable dividends, allowing the safe catch for both the recreational and commercial sectors to more than double since 2008. This increase has helped reinvigorate coastal seafood businesses and brought more fresh local seafood to dinner tables across the Gulf and beyond. EDF is proud to have contributed to this success.

But there’s still a fundamental problem: profound failure in recreational management is denying anglers the benefits they should be enjoying, while threatening to turn back the clock on sustainability. Although the recreational allocation has remained constant at 49 percent of the fishery, the growing Gulf red snapper “pie” is not leading to enhanced recreational fishing opportunities. On the contrary, both individual anglers and charter boat captains face growing frustration. Catch is still controlled by season and bag limits (in addition to size limits), which have shrunk dramatically. The 2013 recreational season was just 42 days.

2013 recreational landings landings based on preliminary data

Note: 2013 recreational landings are projected

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Europe opens a new era of fisheries management

 

Lyme Regis fishing boats. Photo Credit: Britt Groosman

Lyme Regis fishing boats. Photo Credit: Britt Groosman

Yesterday, the European Parliament approved the reformed Common Fisheries Policy—the final step in the legislative process heralding a new era in sustainability for European fish stocks.   This formal ‘seal of approval’ from the Parliament mandates an end to overfishing, phasing out discards and restoring depleted fish stocks.

Commissioner Maria Damanaki said: “Today's vote by the European Parliament means that we now have a policy which will radically change our fisheries and will pave the way for a sustainable future for our fishermen and our resources. I am very grateful to both Parliament and Council for their commitment, vision and overall support for the Commission's proposals which mean we can now return to sustainable fishing in the short term and put an end to wasteful practices. The new CFP is a driver for what is most needed in today's Europe: a return to growth and jobs for our coastal communities.”

Commissioner Damanaki deserves a great deal of credit for her tenacity in seeing this deal through to its successful conclusion; both the Commission’s initial proposal and her strong determination to keep reform on track were key factors in the final outcome.

The new CFP will enter into force on 1 January 2014 with some measures in place thereafter, which means there is a lot of work to do to support member states in implementing the new policies. Here are some of the key changes to look for in 2014: Read More »

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Sustainable European fisheries depend upon sustainable investment mechanisms

fishing boats, Greece

Fishing Boats in Kos Island, Greece. Photo Credit: Britt Groosman

After years of deliberation, the European Union has finalized proposals to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the EU’s framework for fisheries management. The new policy promises a better future for both fishermen and fish by providing a comprehensive management system designed to restore healthy marine environments while supporting profitable fisheries and thriving coastal communities. The new CFP, which will enter into force in January 2014, calls for Member States to take steps that will ultimately eliminate the wasteful practice of discarding fish at sea. It also requires fishing at sustainable levels by achieving Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), and supports a regionalized approach through decentralized decision-making.

Funding transformative change:

These are ambitious requirements that must be adequately funded in order to achieve the policy objectives outlined by the new agreement. The CFP’s funding instrument – the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) – will provide resources to help fishermen in the transition to sustainable fishing; supporting coastal communities in diversifying their economies; financing projects that create new jobs; and making it easier for fishermen to access adequate financing. The EMFF is being reformed simultaneously with the CFP and in late October the European Parliament voted in plenary on proposed amendments. Overall, the results are positive and outcomes – such as the refusal to subsidize the construction of new vessels and increases in funding for data collection and control of illegal fishing – gives hope that the EMFF will ultimately complement the new CFP and make true transformation possible. Read More »

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Sharing the catch means more for everyone

It may seem counter-intuitive that sharing the catch yields more fish and economic benefits for fishermen and coastal communities, but that is exactly what catch shares are proven to do.

NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) recently released its first national report assessing the economic performance of catch share programs in the United States. This report further validates the findings outlined in a 2011 Marine Policy Paper,  “Assessing Catch Shares’ effects evidence from Federal United States and associated British Columbian Fisheries (Grimm et. al),  which examined 15 catch share programs in the U.S and British Columbia before and after catch share implementation.

While these two studies differ slightly in selected fisheries, variables and time frame, they both conclude that catch shares consistently outperform conventional management systems across the board. Graduating to catch shares yields a robust return on investment: longer seasons, fewer risks, higher revenues, less waste and more full time jobs. An overview of the findings from Grimm et al. is presented in the table below.

[Chart summarizing catch share benefits. Data adapted from Grimm et.al ]

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Maintaining fishery accountability while reducing costs for fishermen

No Overfishing Guaranteed LabelThe Pacific Fishery Management Council took a significant step last week when they voted for the first time to move forward with a formal process to scope, set performance standards and eventually implement electronic monitoring for the West Coast Groundfish Individual Fishing Quota (catch share) fishery.  Why is that important?

The West Coast catch share program is now in its third year of operation, and one of its chief characteristics is that it is “100% Federally Monitored – No Overfishing Guaranteed.” An authorized third-party observer who tracks the catch and ensures that all fish are accounted for accompanies each groundfish trip. West Coast fishermen are committed to the full accountability provided by observers, but they are struggling under the added costs that the federal monitoring requirement places on them. Electronic monitoring is seen as a way to save on costs, increase fishermen’s ability to time their trips to weather conditions and market opportunities, and improve safety.

That’s why EDF has been working with fishery managers, fishery enforcement personnel and NMFS to encourage development of cost-effective ways to gradually replace human observers with onboard cameras and supporting software systems. Last week’s Council vote was a milestone, and EDF joins with West Coast fishermen in thanking Council members for taking this well-considered and vital step.

 

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Fishermen and Chefs United: Keep Catch Shares On The Table

Left to Right: EDF National Policy Specialist Melissa Carey, Former Senator Slade Gorton III, Former Representative  Robin Tallon & Representative Chellie Pingree.
Photo Credit: David Hills

This week more than 100 fishermen, chefs and seafood distributors from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C. to talk with members of Congress about sustainable fishing and the need to keep catch shares in the tool box for our nation’s fisheries managers.

Recently, some in Congress have attempted to take catch shares off the table for fishery managers; limiting regional councils’ ability to make the best decision for their fishermen.

Catch shares help eliminate overfishing and restore fish stocks by dividing the total scientifically approved allowable catch among the fishermen and ending short seasons and derbies. Catch shares have been proven to recover fish populations, increase compliance with catch limits, reduce waste, stabilize revenue and increase business efficiency.

In more than 115 meetings, the fishermen and chefs stood together to make it clear that catch shares are working, they are making American fisheries more sustainable and they have had positive impacts not only on fishermen, but the seafood industry. Read More »

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European Fisheries on the Road to Recovery

A major milestone for the recovery of European fisheries was passed this week when the European Parliament approved a much-needed reform to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) by a great majority (502-to-137).

The proposed reforms set strong maximum sustainable yield (MSY) targets—the catch level that can be safely taken each year to maintain the fish population size at maximum productivity. The goal of setting these targets is to allow fish stocks to recover by 2020 at the latest, and to maintain all recovered stocks at this level. Fishing vessels will also be required to land all catches; different fisheries will phase in this change over the coming years, bringing to a halt the wasteful practice of discarding fish. The reforms also call for science based decision making as a foundation for long-term fisheries management planning. And member states will be free to use transferable fishing concessions (TFCs)—known in the United States as “catch shares” – to meet the sustainability goals of the reformed policy. With TFCs European fisheries managers will be better able to reduce discards, improve fishing safety and profitability, and enhance compliance. Read More »

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New England Catch Shares Ruled Legitimate by 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals

1st Circuit Court of Appeals logoIn a long-awaited decision, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a 2011 lower court ruling confirming the legality of the NE sector program.

Ruling on a suit brought by the ports of New Bedford and Gloucester, as well as fishermen and fishing groups, the justices determined that the NE sector program form of catch share complies with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

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.

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