Selected category: Science/Research

Science, warnings and the plight of coral reefs

A tragedy is unfolding on the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living organism on the planet.  The non-Hollywood ending is a surprise to many, but it was clearly foreshadowed decades ago by a small group of scientists who were criticized as false prophets of doom and dismissed.

Large sections of the reef are dead.  The reef has been remarkably resilient over the last 8000 years, weathering devastating outbreaks of voracious crown-of-thorns starfish, pollution, fishing and coral bleaching.  The establishment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority no doubt contributed to that resilience, reducing impacts from some of these threats, especially land-based pollution and fishing pressure.  Recent research by EDF and others shows that managing fisheries is crucial for maintaining healthy coral reefs. Read More »

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Fishing gear innovations creating great results for fish, fishermen and habitat

Trawl gear modifications produce reductions in bycatch, fuel use and seafloor contact – all with increased catching efficiency.

Over the past couple of years EDF’s Pacific team has been privileged to work with fishermen, scientists, fishing net manufacturers and many others on a three-stage project to demonstrate the feasibility of improved trawl net designs on the West Coast. The video shown here describes the amazing progress we’ve made together and indicates a path-forward for disseminating our results to fishermen everywhere.

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Protecting imperiled ocean travelers

Photo: Noel Lopez-Fernandez

Photo: Noel Lopez-Fernandez

By: Katie Westfall & Melissa Mahoney

Across the globe, populations of many highly migratory species of fish, turtles and marine mammals have hit dangerously low levels. For example, Western Pacific leatherbacks have declined more than 80 percent, and their Eastern Pacific counterparts have declined by more than 97 percent. Many of these species play vital roles in maintaining balanced ocean ecosystems full of diversity and life. As we work to reverse these declines, environmentalists have to ensure that everything we do has the greatest positive impact. This means that we’ll need smart management at home and solutions that protect highly migratory species wherever they roam.

New research suggests that well-intentioned U.S. regulations designed to help species like sharks and sea turtles may actually create a net harm to imperiled sea life.

This unintentional negative dynamic can occur when a country, like the United States, unilaterally adopts a regulation to protect an imperiled species such as sea turtles or sharks caught as bycatch. If the regulation leads to decreased fishing domestically and shifts fishing internationally to countries where bycatch rates are higher, the net result can be a higher number of bycatch deaths for the very species the regulation intended to protect. This phenomenon has been called the “transfer effect.” Read More »

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What is needed to sustain healthy ocean ecosystems and local livelihoods in Myanmar?

Workers help grow and maintain soft crabs that are purchased by surrounding mangrove islands within the Myeik archipelago.

Workers help grow and maintain soft crabs that are purchased by surrounding mangrove islands within the Myeik archipelago.

Myanmar is a nation with a diverse array of ecosystems, each contributing significantly to local livelihoods, food security and culture. There is tremendous potential for Myanmar’s fisheries, if sustainably managed, to support the ecological, economic and social welfare of its people. The transition to sustainability will require an overarching plan that includes the use of new data collection and fisheries management tools to overcome the challenges these fisheries face and help them reach their full potential.

New science and collaborations among EDF, WCS and Cornell build on efforts of the Thriving Marine Fisheries in Myanmar initiative, offering solutions to support Myanmar’s efforts to steward sustainable and productive fisheries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Report Highlights Challenges, Opportunities, and Cost-Modeling of Electronic Fisheries Monitoring Programs

pacific-sascha-burkardOne of the keys to effective fisheries management in the 21st century is accountability. Accountability requires having timely and accurate data. Electronic monitoring (EM) is gaining momentum in U.S. fisheries and abroad as an efficient means of meeting accountability requirements. Yet the ‘recipe’ for implementation of EM has not been perfected, and the price tag – and who pays – is not always clear. These challenges partly explain why the rate of uptake has been painfully slow, even as industry increasingly bears the brunt of human observer costs without any cheaper alternatives.

Recognizing the need to better understand the costs associated with EM, EDF’s Pacific team engaged a group of experts – Dr. Gil Sylvia, Dr. Michael Harte and Dr. Chris Cusack of Oregon State University – to analyze the costs of fishery monitoring systems such as EM and traditional At-Sea Observers (ASO). The goal of this research is to describe the state of EM in U.S. fisheries with both agency and industry stakeholders to better enable them to compare costs and tradeoffs between EM and ASO programs.  If monitoring costs go down, profitability goes up, and everyone wins. Read More »

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New process helps managers make informed decisions, even in data poor fisheries

The coast of Galicia, Spain where octopus, goose barnacles, and many other species are harvested by small scale fishermen and women.

The coast of Galicia, Spain where octopus, goose barnacles, and many other species are harvested by small-scale fishermen and women.

Fishery managers, scientists and NGOs from all over Spain gathered in Madrid on a warm spring morning at a workshop convened by EDF and World Wildlife Fund Spain, eager to learn about how to collect, analyze, and use data to manage fishing mortality so that they could achieve their goal of good yields sustained over many years and even generations.

Like many people struggling to improve fishery outcomes around the world, the participants in this workshop felt like they couldn’t use the complex fishery assessment models they had learned in school because the data they actually had in hand were quite limited – and the models required rich streams of data.  The vast majority – probably over 80% – of the world’s fisheries appear to be in this situation.  The participants also felt like they had to make important management decisions with limited expertise by wading through a mass of technical papers on a variety of topics, none giving clear and specific guidance for the specific fisheries they care so much about.

Over the course of three intense days, participants worked together to synthesize guidance from the literature and from other fisheries on how to monitor fisheries, choose appropriate analytical methods and use the results to manage fisheries.  Together, we worked out how this guidance could be applied to specific fisheries.

We were thrilled to read the evaluations afterward.  Participants got a tremendous amount out of the workshop, but many of them said that it was too short (even though most of us were exhausted by the long days of thinking hard and practicing various skills).  They wanted to dig deeper and build on the skills that they had learned.  It would have been great to have a large body of international expertise on monitoring, data analysis and how to adjust fishing mortality to achieve fishery management goals in one convenient place that could be tailored to the fisheries that they care most about.

FishPath: Guiding managers in complex, data poor fisheries

Fortunately, a working group of international stock assessment experts convened by the Science for Nature and People program foresaw this need and developed a process called FishPath that does exactly that.  FishPath  elicits key information about a specific fishery and then uses that information to identify monitoring, assessment and harvest control options that will likely be appropriate for that fishery.  Read More »

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