Selected category: Policy

Gulf anglers like me are demanding change

EDF Gulf Director, Robert Jones, after a recent fishing trip.

Fishing gets in your blood. As a kid growing up on the Texas coast, I spent as much time as possible on the water. Today, an inordinate amount of my time and treasure goes toward maintaining an offshore boat so I can get my salty fix on weekends. I’m one of millions of Americans for whom fishing is a lifestyle. And I’m part of an overwhelming chorus of Gulf anglers who are sick and tired of the broken way we manage recreational red snapper fishing and are demanding change.

The recovery of red snapper is an incredible opportunity. As the stock has rebounded over the last decade, the total amount of catch available annually has grown from 5 million to 14 million pounds. For seafood businesses and consumers, that has delivered tremendous benefits, increasing the value of the commercial fishery from $37 million to $220 million and making delicious Gulf red snapper available year-round in restaurants and grocery stores.

But it’s an entirely different story on the recreational side. Instead of anglers and recreational fishing businesses throughout the Gulf reaping the benefits of recovery, we are stuck in a downward spiral of recreational management failure. Anglers are catching more and bigger fish in state seasons that have become longer and longer – up to 365 days in Texas. As a result, 81% of angler quota is now caught in state waters meaning federal seasons are getting shorter and shorter – like this year’s original three-day season. This has been suffocating our access to the best offshore fishing grounds.

Then last month, the feds did a complete about-face, opening the floodgates with an “all weekends, all summer” recreational season. The problem with this approach is that it will lead to a massive breach of the very science-based catch limits that have brought red snapper back from the brink. We estimate that under the new 2017 season rules, recreational anglers could take as much as three times their safe limit, jeopardizing the fishery. This is a recipe for repeating the disastrous overfishing of previous decades, and returning to the days when my dad and I could barely find a red snapper on a trip. Today we filed a lawsuit to ensure that doesn’t happen. To be clear, we are not trying to end this year’s recreational season and we don’t think fishermen should have to pay the price for the Commerce Department’s misguided decision.

For us, going to court is about more than preventing a return to overfishing: it’s about breaking the cycle of profound recreational management failure and catalyzing innovative, solutions-oriented reforms.

The good news is there are plenty of smart ideas out there that can achieve conservation goals, improve fisheries data, and give anglers more access and flexibility. For example, headboat captains led a pilot project allowing them to take anglers fishing year-round in exchange for requirements they count and report every fish they catch. Charter operators are implementing new electronic reporting systems that provide managers with data in close to real time. Louisiana’s LA Creel data collection program is an example of states working with anglers to deliver a clearer picture of catch rates and provide opportunities for an expanded state role in management. And there are tools that have long worked for hunters that should be considered in the red snapper fishery to improve angler access.

Now is the moment to build out and scale up these new approaches to how we manage recreational fishing. Working together, we can ensure a healthy red snapper stock, extend the success of our Gulf seafood industry, give anglers flexible access, and ensure that future generations of Americans can enjoy the thrill of catching red snapper.

Robert E. Jones, a lifelong recreational fisherman, was raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is director of Environmental Defense Fund's Gulf of Mexico Oceans program. 

Also posted in Domestic, Gulf of Mexico| Comments are closed

Bold commitments to sustainable fisheries at the United Nations will help Belize achieve sustainable oceans goals

The government of Belize has just made major voluntary commitments at the United Nations Oceans Conference that, once implemented, will secure Belize’s fisheries as an engine for sustainable development.

Healthy oceans and sustainable fisheries are crucial for poverty alleviation, food security and generating economic growth in low and middle income countries. This goal is reinforced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which declare a target to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” The health and vibrancy of Belize’s coastal communities, where 15,000 people depend on fisheries for their livelihoods, depend on this target becoming a reality.

Last week, fisheries ministers, fishermen, community leaders and the conservation community from around the world gathered at the United Nations Oceans Conference to share experiences and strategies for achieving this vision, and declare voluntary commitments for good stewardship of the oceans.

The Government of Belize, representatives of Belize’s fishing community, Environmental Defense Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, Toledo Institute for Development and Environment and The Nature Conservancy presented Belize’s major achievements in sustainable fisheries at the conference. At the gathering of leaders and experts in fisheries management from around the world, Belize’s Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, Sustainable Development & Climate Change, Minister Omar Figueroa, highlighted the major step Belize took in partnership with Belize’s fishing and conservation community to end open access fisheries, and implement the world’s first national system of multispecies fishing rights for a small-scale developing world fishery, called managed access. In some fishing areas, this system is already yielding benefits as fishermen are reporting higher catch, and illegal fishing has dropped 60%. Read More »

Also posted in Belize, International| Tagged , , | Comments are closed

There's nothing modern about overfishing

A recently-filed bill with the upbeat title “The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act,” H.R. 2023, would unfortunately do just the opposite.  By gutting one of the most important improvements of modern fisheries law, we believe that this bill would move us backwards to a time of widespread overfishing. Read More »

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Sea changes: The ‘interesting times’ facing European fisheries

By: Erik Lindebo

Calm seas or stormy waters? Well, we are only three months into 2017 and, for a number of reasons, it's already looking like a tumultuous year – calling to mind the ancient Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”.

Around the world, we are seeing dramatic political shifts. In Europe, Brexit has sent shockwaves through political establishments and, regardless of the final outcomes, we now face years of political uncertainty, and highly complex and no doubt emotive negotiations. Brokering a deal around fisheries will certainly be no exception, if past is prologue; only time will tell how access to waters, resources and markets will look in a divorce settlement with the EU. These changing times require new, adaptive ways of thinking about fisheries management.  Read More »

Also posted in Europe, International| Tagged , , , , | Comments are closed

Working together to address challenges in Swedish fisheries

iphone-1005*UpdateWe are delighted to announce that on Friday 16th December 2016 the Swedish Government released a final version of the new demersal management framework: enshrining in law a system which Swedish fishermen have been working towards for two years. This announcement is the culmination of a co-management process that has seen fishing industry and policy-makers collaborating to develop a strong working relationship, and a management system, that hopefully will be resilient to challenges and secure a long-term, sustainable future for Sweden's demersal fleet. We're heading into 2017 with great optimism for fishing communities: who are now able to adapt their fishing practices to meet the Landing Obligation, and fish safely and prosperously according to weather and season. While this is a moment of celebration for all involved in the process, EDF is committed to seeing this system working well on the water and will be alongside fishermen as they implement the new rules, supporting this step-change in their daily activities.*

Sweden, 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. Read More »

Also posted in Europe, International| Tagged , , , , | Comments are closed

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 »

Also posted in International| Tagged , , | Comments are closed
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