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
*Update: We 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
Tuna 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.
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
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
We 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
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