Selected tags: allocation

‘Doing it for the Halibut: How a discard ban saved my fishery’

By: Wes Erikson

Fisherman Wes Erikson shares his experiences fishing under strict Canadian discard legislation to demonstrate how the Common Fisheries Policy landing obligation can result in sustainably managed and economically viable European fisheries.

Photo: Wes Erikson

Photo: Wes Erikson

 

My story:

I have not missed a fishing season since I was five-years old. At that time, anyone could go fishing commercially; all you needed was a boat and a strong back (my grandfather used to say a weak mind helped!). Fishing with my father and grandfather at age 16, I skippered a 14-metre salmon troller and at 20, in 1987, I purchased my first vessel – a 15 metre halibut/salmon vessel. When I became a vessel owner, I decided it was important to get involved in the fisheries advisory process, and I remain involved to this day.

My fishery has evolved and matured as a result of concerns that fishermen have regarding safety, illegal activities, and price. Managers, scientists, and ENGOs have added to this with issues surrounding monitoring, accountability, discards, MPA’s, seabird avoidance, and more. Sometimes change was forced upon us, and it is worth noting that fishermen can navigate cannily around any rule. We are natural problem solvers. We have to be, because lost lives and financial ruin are a very possible outcome of problems that arise in our field. This is one of the reasons why “only fishermen can talk to fishermen.”

Co-management gave us the opportunity to be involved in decision making and regulation changes; real co-management, not just talking to fishermen. This requires time, trust, and allowing both parties to make mistakes and learn from them. The industry was given the chance to grow and mature, but growing up is not easy. None of this was easy. In fact, many changes seemed impossible.

In 2002, the Canadian government asked the participants of the groundfish fishery to integrate and account for all rockfish – 7 sectors, 4 gear types. The fear here was that if we could not figure out how to achieve these objectives, they would. The system we designed had to be affordable and workable for both the smallest boat in the fleet (5m) and the largest (60m), and seven fisheries, all with various catches, needed to combine and become fully accountable. Some species–of which there were over 72 to manage with up to 5 management areas per species– were jointly managed between Canada and the USA.

What we did:

We began by selecting an independent professional facilitator and developing guiding principles for how the process would work. As we started this new pilot fishery, I was terrified. The annual individual vessel allowance of some bottleneck species were less than I had discarded on any given day. On top of that, the quota for these species were owned by less than 80 individuals, one of whom speculated on quota just before this initiative was implemented, owned ten percent, and was planning on leasing these scarce species for a premium.

In light of this seemingly unworkable situation, we went fishing anyway. We’re fishermen. It’s what we do. In the first year, we left over fifty percent of those bottleneck species in the water, and the quota owners were left holding onto over half of this so-called valuable quota. Fishermen began cooperating and communicating almost immediately in order to avoid species with low TACs, and if you are a fisherman, then you will understand that this is revolutionary. Since 2006, we have under-harvested every species as a fleet, including the bottleneck species.

Over 300 Canadian vessels participate in the integrated groundfish fishery, under one management plan, with catch shares, an allocation based management tool, for all species and vessels; although each sector had a very different catch share design. Each vessel is accountable for all of its catch, regardless of whether it is retained or released, with logbooks being audited against video footage and compared to the offload. Now that we can trust the data, our logbooks are being used in science and management studies, because the data provides information on total catch mortality– retained and released.

How we did it:

The most important guideline in fisheries management design is to clearly define your objectives, before you identify your participants and begin a consultative process. With enough incentive, any problem can be solved. The four most important components of this fishery are:

  1. The removal of competition, or, preventing the race for fish
  2. Individual accountability
  3. Transferability
  4. Monitoring

Transferability is an important feature of this management system. It supports selective fishing, staying within allocations, staying safe, and allowing industry to adjust to resource and market dynamics. Vessels are allowed to carry over some level of quota underages and overages from one year to the next, which encourages vessels to fish below their allocation.

There is no guarantee of success here. However, I do know that without these elements in my fishery, we were headed for failure. Many of us now will survive and thrive because the system gives us the flexibility to adjust, take measured risks, and gather the support we need to execute new plans. This has allowed for better working relationships with everyone involved, and we will continue to evolve and mature over time, because this system allows us the flexibility to innovate.

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Lawsuits and lasting solutions for the Gulf’s red snapper fishery

For media inquiries please contact:

Matt Smelser, msmelser@edf.org, (512) 731-3023

EDF takes another step today in our decades-long pursuit of vibrant, productive fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico when we file an amicus brief in an ongoing lawsuit over the red snapper fishery. The issue at hand is whether NOAA violated federal law in its management of the recreational sector, allowing significant overharvesting and in so doing potentially jeopardizing one of the nation’s biggest success stories in fisheries recovery. It’s always unfortunate when fisheries challenges end up in the courtroom. In this instance, we hope that there’ll be a simultaneous uptake of tangible solutions that can improve recreational fishing opportunity while ensuring continued growth and recovery of the red snapper population. The good news is that Gulf fishermen, just as they have in the past, are coming forward with creative management ideas that we need for long-term success. We should build on that to forge greater cooperation and ensure everyone can share in the benefits of a thriving red snapper fishery.

In many ways the story of Gulf red snapper in recent years is one of remarkable accomplishment. Bold leadership from fishermen—and decisive action by the Gulf Fishery Management Council—put the depleted red snapper fishery on the path to recovery. Failed commercial fishery management was fixed with a catch share program that imposed individual accountability, reduced waste, and helped end chronic overfishing. This new system has yielded remarkable dividends, allowing the safe catch for both the recreational and commercial sectors to more than double since 2008. This increase has helped reinvigorate coastal seafood businesses and brought more fresh local seafood to dinner tables across the Gulf and beyond. EDF is proud to have contributed to this success.

But there’s still a fundamental problem: profound failure in recreational management is denying anglers the benefits they should be enjoying, while threatening to turn back the clock on sustainability. Although the recreational allocation has remained constant at 49 percent of the fishery, the growing Gulf red snapper “pie” is not leading to enhanced recreational fishing opportunities. On the contrary, both individual anglers and charter boat captains face growing frustration. Catch is still controlled by season and bag limits (in addition to size limits), which have shrunk dramatically. The 2013 recreational season was just 42 days.

2013 recreational landings landings based on preliminary data

Note: 2013 recreational landings are projected

This same failed recreational management system threatens to undermine recovery of the red snapper population. Through no fault of Gulf anglers who play by the rules, red snapper have been overharvested in the recreational fishery in six of the last seven years, often by significant margins. Preliminary data suggests that in 2013 recreational catch exceeded its quota by close to 100 percent. Recovery of red snapper is too fragile to tolerate a system that routinely breaches science-based limits. A new benchmark assessment released last year showed that while we’ve made progress, red snapper are still overfished and we’ve had weaker than usual recruitment in recent years. It is clear that failed recreational management is not only limiting recreational opportunities, it could endanger the long-term health of the fishery.

We call for fresh thinking about how management in the recreational red snapper fishery can be improved. That thinking can help move us towards a recreational fishery with both year-round fishing opportunities for Gulf anglers and long-term sustainability. Decision-makers must consider new management solutions, reduce tensions and foster greater collaboration among fishing sectors.

The good news is that fishermen are generating new ideas. Recreational participants have asked for solutions that will allow seasons to be longer and more flexible.

In the charter boat sector, many believe that the successful commercial management program could offer charter captains a model for how to lengthen their seasons and increase revenues. Meanwhile, Gulf anglers have previously proposed a tagging program similar to those used for hunting large game. Tags could be managed at the state or local level, by state wildlife agencies or local fishing clubs.

Rather than let this litigation drag on, the Gulf Fishery Management Council should use its meeting next month to urgently consider such new management approaches. And instead of digging in on opposing sides, stakeholders should come together to forge lasting solutions. We will be offering more ideas on such approaches in the months ahead. We all have a shared interest in a healthy Gulf and vibrant red snapper fishery. Bold and creative reform can offer win-win solutions that enhance recreational opportunities while conserving red snapper—for today’s anglers and for generations to come.

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Sustainable European fisheries depend upon sustainable investment mechanisms

fishing boats, Greece

Fishing Boats in Kos Island, Greece. Photo Credit: Britt Groosman

After years of deliberation, the European Union has finalized proposals to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the EU’s framework for fisheries management. The new policy promises a better future for both fishermen and fish by providing a comprehensive management system designed to restore healthy marine environments while supporting profitable fisheries and thriving coastal communities. The new CFP, which will enter into force in January 2014, calls for Member States to take steps that will ultimately eliminate the wasteful practice of discarding fish at sea. It also requires fishing at sustainable levels by achieving Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), and supports a regionalized approach through decentralized decision-making.

Funding transformative change:

These are ambitious requirements that must be adequately funded in order to achieve the policy objectives outlined by the new agreement. The CFP’s funding instrument – the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) – will provide resources to help fishermen in the transition to sustainable fishing; supporting coastal communities in diversifying their economies; financing projects that create new jobs; and making it easier for fishermen to access adequate financing. The EMFF is being reformed simultaneously with the CFP and in late October the European Parliament voted in plenary on proposed amendments. Overall, the results are positive and outcomes – such as the refusal to subsidize the construction of new vessels and increases in funding for data collection and control of illegal fishing – gives hope that the EMFF will ultimately complement the new CFP and make true transformation possible.

Achieving transparent, well designed allocation systems:

A new CFP requirement, Article 17, mandates that Member States allocate their fishing opportunities (share of overall EU catch limits by stock) using transparent and objective allocation systems that take into consideration environmental and social criteria, as well as historical catch rates. The EMFF amendments voted by the Parliament included a measure to support implementation of this new obligation. Securing a funding mechanism that dovetails with this important new obligation is encouraging and provides an important opportunity for Member States to engage with the fishing sector in designing allocation schemes that are open, transparent and based on objective criteria. We hope the new funding provision is retained in the Trilogue process.

Article 17 of the CFP and its accompanying EMFF funds should motivate Member States to engage with industry to implement innovative allocation systems that accurately reflect the challenges on the water, deliver profitable fisheries, and restore healthy marine environments.  These recent developments dovetail nicely with the UK’s decision to re-allocate some of its fishing opportunities after the recent court case ruled in favor of reallocating quota from the large to small scale fishing sector.

The UK should seize this chance to demonstrate it can be a leader in setting up transparent and secure fishing opportunities that are intelligently designed. Fishing administrations, industry and civil society must all be part of this important dialogue in order to secure smart, sustainable allocation methods and fix broken systems once and for all. Indeed, Member States should start thinking now about introducing transparent stakeholder processes for setting up quota systems, such as those advocated in EDF’s recently released fisheries management toolkit. Fishermen and fisheries managers can consult these resources to design and implement management systems that build resilient, profitable fisheries.

While there is every reason to be optimistic there is still some way to go. Trilogue negotiations on the EMFF between the Parliament and Council will begin this week, with the legislative process expected to conclude before the end of the year. It is essential that the important gains from plenary are not lost in these final weeks.

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European Maritime Fisheries Fund: Why Investing in Allocation Matters

EU parliament

The EU Parliament will vote in plenary this fall on the EMFF. Photo Credit: Europa.eu

Given scarce resources in the  EU and UK, it’s especially important that fishing privileges are allocated in a way that best serves national sustainability interests—and now is the time to invest. This month, the European Council approved proposals to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the EU’s framework for fisheries management. The new policy calls for Member States to end discarding and restore fisheries to sustainable levels.  It mandates implementation of systems for allocation of fishing opportunities that are transparent and objective, and that take into consideration environmental and social criteria, as well as historical catch rates.

Regrettably, the fisheries policy reforms to the CFP lack the funds necessary to achieve its objectives. Shortly after the policy puzzle pieces fell into place, Parliament’s Fisheries Committee took up the accompanying funding legislation – the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) –and shot itself in the foot. Unlike the Council of Ministers, the Parliament’s Committee voted not to provide member states, and potentially other stakeholders such as Producer Organizations, with financial support for designing, monitoring and engaging stakeholders in the process of developing fair and transparent allocation schemes.  Instead, the Committee voted to re-institute boat-buying and engine-modernizing subsidies, which undermines sustainability by prodding fishermen to increase their fishing capacity.

Despite this setback, there is cause for optimism concerning member states ability to engage in sustainable investment in the industry.  That is precisely what the UK did, well ahead of the new EU mandate, by recognizing the importance of fair allocation through the reallocation of unused quota from larger to smaller vessels. In advance of any decision to reallocate the unused quota, the UK government carried out a thorough assessment of quota usage and fishing patterns, delivered a detailed economic analysis and conducted comprehensive stakeholder engagement.  The outcome of the court case affirmed the government’s authority to make management decisions about quota allocation and illuminates future possibilities for member states to operate in innovative ways to deliver mutually beneficial solutions for both fishermen and the environment.

While the judgment is celebrated by the UK small scale fleet, this is just the beginning of work to strengthen a policy to maximize return on investment and support sustainable fishing communities and a healthy marine environment. This case illustrates exactly the type of sustainable investment the EMFF should support in covering costs associated with fixing broken systems, helping fisheries in transition, and supporting sustainable communities. It is therefore critical that the EU invests in initiatives that deliver smart, sustainable allocation systems, not in foolish fleet-building. Fortunately, the full Parliament will have a chance to correct these flawed decisions when it takes up the legislation in the fall.

 

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Recreational red snapper management system "stinks and punishes everyone"

Charter boats allow recreational fishermen who do not have their own boats to fish for iconic species such as this Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper. Photo Credit Gulf Wild™

As the Gulf of Mexico red snapper allocation becomes a hot topic for both recreational and commercial fishermen, I wrote to Saving Seafood to set the record straight about Environmental Defense Fund’s work in the Gulf of Mexico and views on the issues facing fishermen.  An excerpt can be found below:

“Gulf of Mexico states and their anglers are increasingly frustrated with short seasons for prized red snapper in federal waters.  They have every right to be angry. The management of the recreational share of the fishery is utterly failing. This year’s projected federal season of a few weeks at best, together with large over-harvests each year, are obvious signs.  The system stinks and punishes everyone including those who enjoy fishing on their own and fishermen and families who use for-hire guides to access the Gulf.

There are a lot of passionate voices advocating change. Open discussion should be respected and welcome – in fact, exploration of new ideas is the only way to get closer to solutions.  Unfortunately, the gossip and finger-pointing simply diverts attention from important issues and does nothing to help.

I am proud of the partnerships between Environmental Defense Fund and fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico.  I am convinced that cooperation between conservationists, fishermen and government are critical to the long term health of the Gulf.  I am also convinced that the progress of commercial red snapper management towards rebuilding the fish population and sustained financial viability is vital to success.”

Read the full piece here.

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