Category Archives: South Atlantic

Maximizing Limited Data to Improve Fishery Management

By Ashley Apel

According to a recent study published in Science, nearly 80% of the world’s catch comes from “data-limited” fisheries.  Not surprisingly, research shows that many of these fisheries are facing collapse, jeopardizing the food security of hundreds of millions of people in developing countries who depend on seafood for a majority of their dietary protein.

Historically, fisheries with little data had few science-based management options. But new methods are being continuously developed and used in the field that deliver science-based results, even in the absence of long-term, historical catch data. Since fishery stock assessments can be extremely complex, EDF recently developed a user-friendly, six-step framework as part of an overall guide to Science-Based Management of Data-Limited Fisheries.

The framework outlines a systematic approach that fishery managers can use to conduct quick and relatively inexpensive assessments.  The methods allow stakeholders in data-limited fisheries to estimate risks to marine ecosystems, determine vulnerability of a stock to fishing pressure, calculate the level of overfishing, assess the sustainability of the fishery, and establish sustainable fishing targets and other management reference points.

Download the guide on Science-Based Management of Data-Limited Fisheries or download the entire toolkit for fisheries.  Feel free to send questions or comments to

Also posted in Alaska, Catch Shares, Cuba, EDF Oceans General, Global Fisheries, Latin America & Caribbean, Mexico, Mid-Atlantic, New England, Pacific, Science/Research| Comments closed

October Brings Even More Closures to the South Atlantic

 If you think the headlines about fishery closures in the South Atlantic are getting old, imagine being a fisherman in the region.  As these closures continue to pile up, they are looking at months off the water.

On October 8, 2012 the commercial black sea bass fishery will close for the year.  The fishery opened on July 1, 2012 after having eliminated half of its fishermen – many who had made serious investments in gear and relied on black sea bass for many years.  This was a result of a fishery management tool called “endorsements” implemented by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

Endorsements eliminate fishermen from a specific fishery to handle overfishing by setting a minimum average of pounds of fish that fishermen must have caught in the past to receive an “endorsement” to fish for that species in the 2012 season. The unfortunate truth about endorsements is that conservation-practicing fishermen who fish with less gear, catch less fish, and are paid a higher price for their quality fish are forced out of the fishery in favor of those who use more gear, catch more fish, and flood the market with lower quality fish.

In South Carolina this program eliminated 80 percent of the fishermen who had previously been trapping sea bass. It hurt fishing families throughout the region, and especially in the Carolinas – where in some fishing towns, not a single fisherman received an endorsement.  To make this hardship worse, after all of that, this year’s season only lasted 55 days longer than the previous year.

Fishermen are willing to sacrifice to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fish, but a program that results in blanket removal of fisherman, without any hope for a future stake in the fishery, isn’t good policy.

More closures are coming for fishermen in this region and the question of how long they can hang on is getting harder to answer.  The outdated command and control management isn’t working for the stocks and isn’t working for the fishermen.  They deserve better. Read More »

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More Closures Coming For South Atlantic Fishermen


Source: JamesAlan1986 at en.wikipedia

Earlier this month the South Atlantic was hit with a number of closures.  Many fishermen will be off the water until April 2013 and now the Southeast Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service has announced another closure.

The Commercial Vermillion Snapper fishery will close on September 28th, 2012.  The fishery has exceeded its catch limit and will be closed through the end of the year.

This is an important fishery in the region, but short seasons are nothing new to the fishermen.  While there was good news for commercial yellowtail snapper fishermen, whose season has been extended, more closures are expected for commercial fishermen in the region. Many are worried about how they will survive such a long time off the water.

There are better ways to manage fisheries, and fishermen in the Southeast deserve better options than this.

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September Closures Will Bring Heartache to Fishermen in the Southeast

Beginning on September 8, 2012, a series of closures will begin for commercial fishermen in the South Atlantic.  Closures have become all too commonplace for fishermen in the region that spans from North Carolina all the way down the Atlantic coast of Florida.

The upcoming closures will include a number of species:



Closure Begins


Yellowedge grouper, blueline tilefish, silk snapper, misty grouper, queen snapper, sand tilefish, black snapper, blackfin snapper

 September 8, 2012

Gray triggerfish

Gray triggerfish

 September 11, 2012


Jolthead, knobbed, saucereye, whitebone, scup

September 8, 2012

Yellowtail snapper

Yellowtail snapper

 September 11, 2012

Command and control management that dominates the South Atlantic fisheries isn’t working for fish or for fishermen.  Stocks are continuing to suffer and fishermen are barely hanging on.  We continue to hear reports from fishermen that many are ready to leave the fishing business, some have had to look to government assistance to feed their families and many face a serious mountain of debt.  Being off the water for months at a time and working in constant fear of closures is no way to run a business.These species are crucial to many commercial fishermen in the region.  The closure of the gray triggerfish and yellowtail snapper fisheries are unprecedented. With spawning closures taking place at the beginning of 2013, this could mean more than six months off the water for many commercial snapper-grouper fishermen. Read More »

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On the RESTORE Act, Two Steps Forward, One Meaningless Gesture Back

Snapper boats dockedLast night the House and Senate agreed to compromise language on a broad set of initiatives referred to as the transportation bill.  Included in this “must-pass” bill is legislation dealing with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill known as the RESTORE Act.  There is much to applaud in this bill; for example, it provides important funding for fisheries science and research.  It’s too bad it also contains an empty political gesture against a fishery management tool that has benefitted the Gulf’s fishermen.

The RESTORE Act directs the penalties received by the federal government as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster to the affected region, including, at Senator Nelson’s particular insistence, providing funding for research to “support . . . the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, fish stocks, fish habitat, and the recreational, commercial, and charter fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.”  At a time of scarce funds and great need, this effort will help the marine resources and fishermen of the Gulf recover from the blow they suffered two years ago.

Unfortunately, the bill also contains a gratuitous slap at the region’s fishermen by prohibiting the use of the funds provided in the bill for the development or approval of new catch share programs along the east coast or the Gulf of Mexico.  The catch share language echoes an amendment previously offered by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) – but here it means absolutely nothing given a separate prohibition on using the money for any form of fisheries regulation. Read More »

Also posted in BP Oil Disaster, Catch Shares, EDF Oceans General, Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Atlantic, New England| Tagged , | Comments closed

Catch Shares Gain New Allies In Close House Vote

In a disappointing move for the environment and the fishing industry, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a rider that would effectively ban new federal catch shares for fisheries in the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

Thanks in large part to catch shares, many fisheries in the United States have been turning a corner after decades of overfishing, massive job losses and closures. Fish caught in catch shares currently account for about half of the value and over three quarters of the volume of commercial landings in federal waters.

Some fisheries still under conventional management have not yet recovered, causing fishermen to suffer. This misguided rider would thwart progress and take a proven tool off the table for struggling fishermen and regional fishery management councils.

The rider was approved by a vote of 220-191, a smaller margin than when a similar rider was approved last year by a vote of 259-159. More members of Congress have come to oppose a ban because they want to make our oceans more sustainable for the fish and fishermen.  Read More »

Also posted in Catch Shares, EDF Oceans General, Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Atlantic| Tagged | Comments closed

Neuroconservation: Your Brain on Ocean

Roaring Ocean, Oregon Coast. Photo by Charles Seaborn.

The fate of the oceans is now in human hands, yet most of us ocean conservationists don’t know much about why people do things that harm the ocean, or how to motivate behavior that is good for the ocean.  As I note in my book, Heal the Ocean, the re-connection of people to the sea will be key to pervasive conservation and intelligent resource use.  But how can we do that?

I recently had the opportunity to learn about how humans relate to the ocean by moderating the Blue Mind: Your Brain on Ocean panel of scientists, futurists and communicators as part of the inaugural Bay Area Science Festival. We also explored how conservationists might be able to apply the insights of neuroscience, behavioral science, and psychology to improve conservation strategies and outcomes.

BLUEMiND Graphic from Inaugural Summit, June, 2011.

The panel line-up included marine biologist and research associate at the California  Academy of Sciences, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, who also has an economics degree from Duke University, and hybrid and communications expert Sarah Kornfeld. “J.”, as Dr. Nichols likes to be called, and Sarah hosted a groundbreaking conference in June at the Academy of Sciences called BLUEMiND to explore the response of the human brain to the ocean. Read More »

Also posted in Catch Share Conversations, EDF Oceans General, Fishermen Voices, Marine Protection, Ocean Energy, Pacific, Seafood| Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Dangerous fishing derby a backdrop for latest South Atlantic Council meeting

Progress made toward catch shares, which will end derbies and provide year-round fishing

The latest South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) meeting resulted in several positive outcomes for fisheries and fishermen, notably the unanimous votes to add details to the snapper grouper and golden crab catch share programs and seek public input on them in early 2011.

Dangerous derby a reminder of need for catch shares

At the same time the Council met, a dangerous year-end black sea bass fishing derby kept many fishermen away from the meeting and served as a reminder of why improving management is urgently needed.

The black sea bass fishery was opened for a short end-of-year season Dec. 1-15. With vermillion snapper off limits, fishermen rushed to catch black sea bass, even in bad weather, to catch as many black sea bass as possible before the season closes. As these fish glut the market, prices stand to drop significantly.

Dangerous fishing derbies like this one are becoming more prevalent as fishing seasons are drastically shortened throughout the region.

Fishermen and communities are struggling as fishermen and fish dealers go out of business. Catch shares are a proven solution to rebuild prosperous fisheries and communities. Catch shares also eliminate destructive derby conditions.

The SAFMC should move aggressively to gather fishermen input on catch share design and feedback on the pending catch share amendments.

Catch shares improve the safety of fishing

Below are examples where catch shares improved the safety of fishing.

Alaskan fishermen talk about improved safety under catch shares in this video from Marine Conservation Alliance. 

Fishing derbies are brewing in the Southeast. Fishery managers should act responsibly for fish and fishermen, including taking steps to reduce derby fishing conditions with catch shares.

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