Fishermen lead the way in discarding old habits

Photo: Laurence Hartwell

Photo: Laurence Hartwell

By: Dr. Erik Lindebo, Senior Consultant, EDF Oceans Europe

For coastal communities across Europe, fishing is both a way of life and a business. It’s an activity rich with tradition, spanning generations within families – but to be passed down from father to son, businesses need to be strong: fishing must stay profitable, and sustainable. Facing a changing policy landscape can challenge fishing businesses of all sizes, and the introduction of a ‘Landing Obligation’ (which requires fishermen to land and account for all of their catch rather than discarding unwanted fish) by the Common Fisheries Policy is certainly one of the biggest policy challenges the industry has had to adapt to.

Whilst many industry members are still reeling at the implications of landing 100% of catch – and worried about their bottom line in a ‘discard free’ future – a dedicated and growing core of active fishermen are seeking new solutions to implementing the Landing Obligation (LO). Their vision is of fishing businesses that waste little, deliver profits and remain sustainable in the long-term. But how can this be achieved? Read More »

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Gear Workshop Highlights Innovators in West Coast Fishery

IMG_1389-1 New


“The best way to get something done is to tell a fisherman it can’t be done.”

– Bob Dooley, veteran fisherman and industry leader

With support from a Saltonstall-Kennedy grant and the Packard Foundation, EDF’s Pacific team joined with an all-star Steering Committee this month to convene a Gear Modification Workshop in Newport, Oregon. More than 70 fishermen from the West Coast and Alaska, along with scientists, net manufacturers, fishery managers, electronics experts, NGO representatives and others came together for two very enjoyable days of intensive information sharing.

The West Coast groundfish trawl fishery is a laboratory of gear innovation these days because the catch share management system requires fishermen to account for every fish caught. Having operated under catch share systems for many years, Alaska fishermen and researchers brought their experiences to bear. Since unwanted or undersized fish count against a fisherman’s overall quota, the incentive to “fish clean” is much higher than in less-accountable fisheries. Fishermen are deploying underwater cameras and working with net manufacturers to design nets that fish more selectively, reduce bottom impact and save on fuel costs.  Likewise, Alaska fishermen and researchers have long been leaders in gear innovation, and they brought their perspectives and expertise to share with their West Coast counterparts.

Read More »

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Crowdsourcing better data on small-scale fisheries

Photo credit: Jason Houston

Photo credit: Jason Houston

Many of the world’s fish are caught in small-scale fisheries that lack data about the health of fish populations, giving managers very limited information to base management decisions on. In turn, most of these fisheries appear to be under-performing with respect to conservation, the amount of food they can produce, the amount of money they can generate, and the quality of the livelihoods they can support. There is a perception that these fisheries cannot be assessed without large amounts of data. Because of this perception, many fisheries remain unassessed, ineffectively managed or not managed at all leading to under performance or even collapse.

Fortunately, there are alternatives: fishermen and women, community members, managers and scientists are collaborating to bridge the data gap for these important fishing communities; increasing knowledge and resources for effective fishery assessment and management. While these collaborations have started to fill in the gaps, we still need input from fishery managers and practitioners for a complete picture of the data.

In collaboration with small-scale fisheries around the world, we are beginning to collect information on the pathway and tools employed in actions of science-based fishery co-management in small-scale, data-limited contexts. Read More »

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Saving Sharks by Reducing Bycatch

Caribbean Reef Sharks. Photo: Noel Lopez-Fernandez

Caribbean Reef Sharks. Photo: Noel Lopez-Fernandez

This week, sharks make their annual summer migration to the Discovery Channel for Shark Week. It’s a great time to learn about some of the advances in shark research happening every day. In just the time since Shark Week 2015, we learned new things about where we can find the world’s largest concentration of sharks, how great white sharks migrate, how sharks use their photon conductive noses to hunt fish, and how catsharks grow brighter the deeper they swim. We’re also discovering new species to add to the growing list of hundreds of different sharks every couple of weeks.

Yet, with all these new findings, we still have a lot to learn about these keystones to our ocean ecosystems. Off the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, a large number of shark species swim in and out of U.S. waters. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) manages these species of sharks—including many known to be highly susceptible to overexploitation such as great whites, whale sharks, and bigeye threshers. Read More »

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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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