Selected tags: co-management

‘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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From top down to bottom up: Transitioning to co-management of local fisheries

“We’re all on the same page for the first time, and it’s amazing”, Wes Erikson, Commercial Fisherman

At the Hague Global Oceans Action Summit last month, Tom Grasso of the Environmental Defense Fund had the opportunity  to facilitate a co-management workshop under the theme of ‘Models for Governance,’ featuring:

  • Wes Erikson: fourth generation Commercial Fisherman, British Columbia
  • Raul Garcia: Director of Fisheries, WWF Spain
  • Momo Kochen: Science and Programme Director, Fishing and Living, Indonesia
  • Cathy Demesa:  Executive Director, Network of Sustainable Livelihoods Catalysts, (NSLC) Inc., the Philippines
  • Dr Sunoto:  Advisor to the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Indonesia

Attendees discussed the best way to achieve a transition from top down, centralised fisheries management to bottom up, community-led approaches. All agreed that successful co-management takes time, due to a need to build sustained trust and willing co-operation across different sectors such as fishermen, government, NGOs and processors – but that the investment of time pays major dividends.

All of the field practitioners noted the similarities among triumphs and challenges they faced in implementing comanagement systems, even while it comes in many different forms. WWF’s Raul Garcia drew attention to Spain’s long history of co-management with the cofradias, and the continued attempts of NGOs in Spain to widen the number of fisheries in which the ethos of co-management is institutionally accepted.

All supported prioritising investment in creating the enabling conditions necessary to encourage the adoption and spread of co-management, such as investments that:

  • Facilitate networking, information sharing and exchanges that introduce best practices and reduce learning times and technology transfer costs.
  • Strengthen the voices of local communities and of leaders at all levels of governance, to ensure their active participation in making and enforcing rules and best practices.
  • Secure access rights, enhance access to markets and, where necessary, compensate local communities.

There is no doubt that transitioning to co-management of local fisheries is no easy task. However, the speakers at this workshop demonstrated that when a co-management system takes hold, it has the potential to transform former long-time adversaries into collaborators with recognised shared goals.

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Cooperation beats competition

By Sarah Poon

Whether in school, at work, or at play, we’ve all experienced the value of working collectively to achieve a common goal.  Many fisheries around the world are successfully managed by providing a structure for collaboration between fishermen via Cooperative catch shares.

In a Cooperative catch share, one or more groups of fishing participants, or “Cooperatives”, are allocated a secure portion of the catch or a dedicated fishing area.  In exchange, they are responsible for accepting certain management responsibilities.  Many fishing communities around the world have traditionally managed their coastal resources cooperatively, leveraging their local knowledge and relationships to achieve common goals.  Recognizing the success of this approach, many fisheries are building upon this traditional practice, while also adapting to the realities of today’s increasingly global fishery markets.

There are hundreds of Cooperatives around the world.  They have formed in different ways and have various functions and capacities.  But when it comes to their ability to manage fisheries, they share a common (perhaps obvious) theme: Cooperatives work best when people cooperate.  Cooperatives have demonstrated that fishermen working together (often hand-in-hand with fishery managers) can improve fishery science, tailor management to local conditions, increase profits and respond to complex management challenges such as discarding and habitat impacts.

Perhaps the most famous example of a well-functioning Cooperative is the United States Bering Sea and Aleutian Island (BSAI) Crab Rationalization Program which is featured on the popular television program, The Deadliest Catch.  Prior to Cooperative implementation, fishermen competed with one another in an intense and dangerous race to fish, resulting in overcapitalization, overfishing and unsafe work conditions.  Now, under the BSAI Crab Rationalization Program, fishermen are assigned a secure share of the annual catch, and they collaborate rather than compete by sharing information and working together to increase the productivity of their businesses. Because the season is longer and there is no race to fish, fishermen can go out when the weather is fair, avoiding deadly situations.

In the Galicia region of northwestern Spain, artisanal fishermen have worked together for centuries in traditional fishing guilds or “cofradías” to manage the goose barnacle fishery.  However, inadequate fishery science and a rise in demand for this traditional culinary delicacy led to a near collapse of the fishery.  Recognizing the management potential of the cofradías, the Galician fisheries ministry granted exclusive harvesting privileges—also known as Territorial Use Rights for Fishing (TURFs)—to the traditional fishing guilds.  In turn, the cofradías develop annual fishery management plans, participate in monitoring, and ensure sustainable harvest by their members. By working together in their cofradías and alongside fishery managers, fishermen have helped drive the recovery of the goose barnacle population and stabilized profits.

These are just two examples of many fisheries around the world in which a secure stake in the fishery has empowered groups of fishermen to participate in responsible management.  Additional stories of fisheries transformed through a Cooperative catch share approach can be found below and as part of our comprehensive fisheries toolkit.  Two new guides provide step-by-step guidance to designing Cooperative catch shares, including one for quota-based programs and one for Territorial Use Rights for Fishing.

Japanese Common Fishing Rights System

This program is a model for managing mobile nearshore species through a coordinated system of co-management between federal and regional governments and local fishermen organizations.

Mexican Vigía Chico Cooperative Spiny Lobster Territorial Use Rights for Fishing Program

The most productive fishing Cooperative in the Mexican-Caribbean since 1982, this area-based fishery management program has steadied the Punta Allen lobster catch while most other areas declined.

United States Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Non-Pollock (Amendment 80) Cooperative Program

A great example of a cooperative catch share, this program ended the race to fish, drastically reduced bycatch rates, and allows slower and more targeting harvesting by fishermen.

United States Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Cooperative Program

Launched as a pilot in 2007, the successful rockfish management program was extended for ten years in 2011 years with some key design changes to improve upon the original program design.

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