New England Fisheries Need A New Roadmap

Atlantic cod

Atlantic Cod; Photo Credit: NOAA

In yesterday’s  New York Times, Oceana’s Gib Brogan raised serious concerns in an Opinion piece, “A Knockout Blow for American Fish Stocks,” about both the future facing New England cod and the New England Management Council’s stewardship of the region’s fisheries resource. We share many of Gib’s concerns.

Fisheries management is too often presented as a choice between protecting the environment, on the one hand, and the economic interests of fishermen and coastal communities on the other. But we know from our experience in United States that the two are inextricably linked. With many fisheries around the country rebounding, fishermen are among the primary beneficiaries as catch limits increase. Conversely in New England, the collapse of cod presents a significant challenge to coastal fishing businesses; and the recent initiatives of the council on habitat and monitoring are dangerous precisely because they further jeopardize the fishery’s long-term prospects. Read More »

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Cuba’s plan for shark conservation

A Caribbean reef shark encountered off the coast of Cuba.

A Caribbean reef shark encountered off the coast of Cuba. Credit: Noel Lopez Fernandez

Sharks are recognized by scientists, resource managers and the tourism ministry in Cuba for their critical role in marine ecosystems, as a tourist attraction for divers and as a protein source when caught by fishers. Leaders from various Cuban agencies, looking at how to balance these needs and protect sharks, are now for the first time creating a national plan for shark conservation.  This is important not just for Cuba but for the entire Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region where many shark populations travel throughout waters shared by many nations.

Earlier this year I sat in a hotel discoteca in Trinidad, Cuba that was converted into a teaching space for daytime use. Here I watched fishers jump at the chance to correctly identify shark species and prove their skills in front of their peers. This was the second shark and ray identification workshop organized by Cuba’s Ministry of Food (MINAL) and EDF where fishers, boat captains and port employees came together from across the country to learn about Cuba’s efforts to study and conserve sharks.

Because of ongoing concerns over declining shark populations in the region, the Cuban government is making shark conservation  a national priority through the development of its first-ever National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Sharks and Rays (NPOA-Sharks). They hope to complete it by the end of the year. Read More »

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Let’s take control of our future: a UK skipper’s perspective

Photo: Tom Jamieson

Photo: Tom Jamieson

By: David Stevens

David Stevens comes from a long line of St Ives fishermen and is part of his family run business. Their vessel, The Crystal Sea is a 20 meter trawler working out of Newlyn, which goes to sea 3-5 days depending on the weather, so as to maximise the quality and freshness of their catch. David skippers alongside his brother, Alec, with a crew of three others and their father working ashore with the nets and supplies.

I have been fishing now for nearly 25 years and in all of that time, the decisions that really matter, about how we fish and the amount we catch have been largely kept out of industry’s hands. The decisions made in Brussels by the European Union have had a huge impact on the way we run our businesses. We are often left wondering how seemingly straightforward policies have become so complicated and how, when introduced at the industry level, these laws just don’t work. I am hopeful, however, that fishermen can now lead the necessary management solutions to forge a prosperous and sustainable future. Read More »

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Canary rockfish rebound dramatically: 40 years ahead of schedule


Photo credit: Noëlle Yochum

At this week’s meeting in Spokane, WA, the Pacific Fishery Management Council made the good news official. Canary rockfish – a long-lived species declared overfished in 2000, has been “rebuilt.”

At the same meeting, Petrale sole, one of the marquee species on the West Coast, was also declared rebuilt. “Rebuilt” status simply means that the population of the fish has increased to a level above what is needed to sustain a healthy population. This target is set by the Council and aims to support maximum sustainable yield in the fishery.

Under the initial rebuilding plan, populations of the bright orange and pink Canary rockfish were not expected to be rebuilt until 2057, so this rapid progress – attributed to a combination of favorable ocean conditions and strict conservation measures enacted under the West Coast’s catch share fishery management system – comes as particularly welcome news.

Canary are one of the so-called “choke species” on the West Coast, meaning that assigned catch quotas of these fish are so small that fishermen have been effectively prevented from accessing large swaths of fishing grounds where plentiful target species co-mingle with Canary.

In adapting to those low quotas and avoiding Canary rockfish in the first four years of the catch share program, fishermen have been instrumental in this major conservation win. When quotas for Canary are adjusted to reflect the six-fold increase in their population, fishermen will be less constrained in fishing those areas, and larger quantities of certified-sustainable fish will hit the docks in Washington, Oregon and California.  EDF will continue working with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Pacific Fishery Management Council to see that those quotas are adjusted as soon as possible.


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New study concludes that catch shares are working for fishermen in the U.S.

iStock_000014104307MediumThe good news keeps rolling in about the performance of fisheries managed with secure fishing rights – called “catch shares” in the United States.

An important, detailed analysis of all 20 US catch-share fisheries, authored by scientists and economists of NOAA’s Office of Science and Technology and six regional fisheries science centers, was just issued in the journal, Marine Policy.

The bottom line is that the 13 well-studied catch shares show strong performance, with important increases in an index that adds together a wide array of economic productivity elements and that takes into account changes in relative fish abundance.  Even in just the first three years, that index gains an average of 22% versus baseline years (see Table 7).  For the six longest-established catch shares, the index is an average of 77% higher after the third year, with no increase lower than 14% (see Table 8). Read More »

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Congress Shouldn’t Destabilize Our Fisheries

iStock_000014939237_MediumNext week, the House of Representatives will consider H.R. 1335, a bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  Fisheries issues often avoid the partisanship that otherwise rules (some would say cripples) Washington, but the Natural Resources Committee voted out H.R. 1335 strictly on party lines, and we expect the same outcome next week.  That’s a shame, not only because of the breakdown of bipartisanship, but also because this is a bad bill.

Many have written about how much U.S. fisheries management has improved over the last several years. A recent report from NOAA Fisheries confirms that overfishing numbers hit all-time low in 2014, and that 37 species around the country have rebuilt since 2000. EDF is proud to have worked side-by-side with the fishing industry as these gains have been made – not only because they’re delivering a healthier marine environment but also because they’re supporting more profitable fishing businesses and more prosperous coastal communities.  Unfortunately, H.R. 1335 would jeopardize this progress.  It would also put unnecessary restrictions on the decisions of the regional fishery management councils, long the bedrock of fishery management in the United States and a means for local fishermen and others to participate directly in the rulemaking process. Read More »

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