Managing Spain’s small-scale fisheries with limited data? ¡Sí se puede!

Credit: Pam Ruiter

Credit: Pam Ruiter

For the last three years, Environmental Defense Fund Europe has been working in partnership with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Spain through a nation-wide project focusing on the sustainability of small-scale coastal fisheries. Small-scale fishing is the lifeblood of many coastal Spanish communities. In order to preserve this way of life it is critical to understand how these fisheries are doing biologically. As in small-scale fisheries worldwide, many Spanish coastal fisheries have limited information available to work with, and a stronger link between science and management could be made. Read More »

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Healthy Fisheries Need Sound Science, Good Policy and Stable Markets

Cape May1By:  Alexis Rife & Jake Kritzer

Any fishery functions as a series of complex interactions among an ecosystem, the political arena, the economy, cultural norms and traditions, and other systems. Understanding these interacting systems is critical for achieving EDF’s triple bottom line goals: more fish in the sea, more food on the plate, and more prosperous communities. EDF has been tackling this challenge by bringing together expertise spanning disciplinary boundaries, including biology and ecology, social sciences, policy analysis, and business planning.  Members of EDF’s Fishery Solutions Center recently spent two days in Boston meeting with partners from Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to integrate research efforts in support of sustainable fisheries worldwide.

Participants reviewed the recent global macro-analysis of the biological, social and economic upside that can be realized by aligning incentives in fisheries through the application of well-designed fishing rights.  We then considered three parallel analyses that allow deeper understanding of how to best design scientific, policy and market systems that allow for the upside to be realized. Read More »

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The State of U.S. Fisheries is Strong

rp_iStock_000014104307Medium-1024x680.jpgWe 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 »

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Pacific Council Decisions Provide Greater Flexibility for Fishermen

Pacific.Sascha BurkardPotential is for higher catches and increased profitability per trip

Last month’s Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting broke a logjam that has frustrated fishermen for years.

When the West Coast catch share program “went on the water” in 2011, many of its new regulations were overlaid on existing  – but no longer practical or applicable – regulations from the fishery’s pre-catch shares past. This had the effect of hamstringing fishermen. They were unable to fully adapt their business plans, their nets and their fishing methods in order to leverage many of the advantages of the new management program.

A workshop we co-sponsored in Portland in February gave fishermen a platform to air their grievances on these matters, and those sentiments were echoed at the Council meeting last week. At that meeting, the Groundfish Advisory Subpanel (GAP) brought a detailed set of recommendations to the Council, and then, one after another, fishermen testified persuasively that the GAP’s common-sense recommendations were not only overdue, but critical in order for them to maximize catch and profitability in a fishery that has already proven a remarkable conservation success.

Although the specifics of the GAP recommendations adopted by the Council are a fish-wonk’s cornucopia, I’d like to draw out a couple key takeaways:

  • Significant new flexibility in net design and mesh-size requirements will enable fishermen to target both flatfish and rockfish while trawling on the continental shelf. This will increase fishermen’s access to rich fishing grounds, expand the overall catch of certified-sustainable fish species, and improve per-trip profitability.
  • Allowing fishermen to switch between a bottom trawl and a midwater trawl during a fishing trip will allow for much more efficient use of fishing time, reduce fuel and observer costs, expand overall catch and increase per-trip profitability.

Council members I spoke with stressed repeatedly that it was the quality and credibility of testimony presented by fishermen that gave them the confidence they needed to green-light these positive changes. Through that testimony the Council came to appreciate that fishermen truly want to do what’s right, but need a regulatory structure that makes sense in order to do so.

This is a great step forward and we applaud the Council for its actions. In effect, they have aligned regulations a bit more closely with the real world that fishermen operate in, and that’s a good thing. Additional improvements are needed to enable the catch share program to meet its economic goals – and we’ll continue working to advance those improvements – but last month was a good one here on the West Coast.

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Examining Climate Change Vulnerabilities of Marine Species in New England

Sea scallop. Photo credit: Dann Blackwood, USGS

Sea scallop. Photo credit: Dann Blackwood, USGS

By: Kristin M. Kleisner

Last week at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, a session entitled “Questioning our Changing Oceans,” sponsored by The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, The Environmental Defense Fund, The Island Institute, and The Nature Conservancy, sought to address some of the major issues related to climate change that the fishing industry has been experiencing. The panel included Jake Kritzer (EDF) as well as local scientists Andy Pershing (GMRI) and Jon Hare (NOAA), along with headliners Capt. Keith Coburn of the hit show ‘Deadliest Catch’, Capt. Buddy Guindon of the new breakout hit ‘Big Fish, Texas,’ and fishermen from as far as Western Australia.

The panel highlighted two NOAA studies recently published in PLOS ONE that highlight the vulnerability of marine fish and invertebrate species such as American lobster and scallops on the U.S. Northeast Shelf to the effects of climate change. Both studies illuminate important trends in species adaptation that will help inform future management decisions in the region. Read More »

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Portland workshop focuses on how to make management work better for fishermen

Photo credit: John Rae

Photo credit: Corey Arnold

Last week, EDF joined with a broad array of stakeholders to convene the 3rd Pacific Groundfish Quota Program Workshop in Portland. Following on similar conferences we helped organize in 2010 and 2012, the workshop provided fishermen, processors, Council members and staff, NMFS officials and others involved in the fishery with an opportunity to acknowledge the successes and address the challenges of the West Coast catch share program.

In order for fishermen, processors and management personnel to work together toward their common goal of “getting it right,” the workshop steering committee felt it was important to hold this event ahead of the agency’s upcoming 5-year program review.

Fittingly, a number of workshop speakers began by looking back at conditions in this fishery in the 2000’s: too many boats chasing too few fish; multiple species identified as overfished; unreliable catch and discard data; and finally, a federal disaster declaration. Several of those problems have been remedied. Concurrent with full accountability in the fishery – which produces extremely high-quality data – the West Coast is seeing a historic resurgence of groundfish, and the Marine Stewardship Council now certifies the entire trawl fishery as sustainable. Meanwhile, recent upgrades from Seafood Watch brought 39 groundfish species up to either Green (Best Choice) or Yellow (Good Alternative) rankings.

Nevertheless, this program was designed to improve economic performance as well as conservation performance, and we heard loud and clear from fishermen and processors that the economic potential of the program is not fully being met. The agency’s process for clearing regulatory backlog is glacially slow; program-related costs are rising – even stranding some fishermen at the docks; and most of the total allowable catch is going un-harvested. NMFS heard from multiple speakers on these topics.

What they did not hear was anyone calling for a return to the bad old days. The groundfish quota program on the West Coast can and must be fixed. With over 160 attendees, the Portland workshop clearly showed that there is no lack of interest in doing so.

A final report from the workshop will:

  • Highlight potential actions that the Council, NMFS, and industry members can take to increase the value of the fishery;
  • Clarify why timely action on program refinements currently being considered are key to improving the economic performance of the fishery; and
  • Identify issues and potential solutions that should be explored during the program’s five-year review.

Our processor and fishermen-allies have been responsible for the program improvements we have seen to date, and have borne the costs of the failure to make additional, critical changes. We will be with them every step of the way in advocating for a fishery with enormous upside potential.

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