EDFish

Selected tag(s): Conservation

Breaking down China’s seafood trade pathways

No major global fishery ecosystem is untouched by China’s seafood economy. Its world-leading volume of fish catch and position in global seafood supply chains bring it to the forefront of critical economic and conservation policy issues. Read More »

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IUCN WCC | Sustainable fisheries & biodiversity conservation — working together in the face of climate change

Over the past week, representatives from organizations and countries from around the world have come together for critical discussions about protecting and enhancing biodiversity in the face of climate change at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille, France. For the first time at the WCC, restoring ocean health was one of the central discussion themes, as a “marine journey.”

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Across the Pacific: collaboration to improve conservation

By Daniel Willard and Shems Jud

This August, a group of Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese scientists and policy professionals joined EDF to visit some of our long-time partners — fishermen, scientists and resource managers — in Oregon and Washington.

Our intent was to enhance the exchange of fisheries management experiences between the U.S. and important fishing nations in the Asia-Pacific region and contribute to a growing learning network among governments, scientists, NGOs and fishing communities. Read More »

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New management plan continues to yield conservation & economic benefits in Pacific groundfishery: NOAA report

fishery observer

WCGOP Observer
Photo Credit: NOAA Report, supplied by Sean Sullivan

On September 24, NOAA Fisheries released their report on the second year (2012) of the West Coast Groundfish Catch Shares Program, a program that EDF has been instrumental in helping to develop, implement and improve. The report notes the spirit of partnership that helped bring a catch share management system to the Pacific Coast, and praises the program’s conservation and economic performance. Mostly, however, NOAA credits fishermen for using the flexibility afforded under catch shares to improve their long-term economic prospects and avoid overfished species.

Here are some highlights:

  • Conservation: The report notes “a significant reduction in the amount of bycatch,” of overfished species, and concludes that the program “is actively rebuilding several groundfish stocks.”
  • Catch: Harvest of target stocks continues to improve—up 5% from 2011.
  • Business Flexibility: Transfers of quota between fishermen increased dramatically in comparison with 2011, and were relatively constant throughout the year. This increase indicates better understanding among fishermen of how to leverage their allotment for efficient business planning. Read More »
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Managing for a Resilient Ocean

Good science should always guide policy.  In the ocean, policy reflects decades of scientific work on single species and on single endpoints, like water quality.  However, it is now clear that ocean ecosystems are more than the sum of their parts, and policy needs to catch up to this new scientific understanding.

Of course, we must continue to protect the aspects of ocean ecosystems that we value the most.  Fisheries need catch limits to keep stocks at sustainable levels.  Pollutants need caps to keep waters fishable and swimmable.  Forestry and farming need best practices and standards to keep estuaries healthy.  But it turns out that ocean ecosystems have tipping points – ecological thresholds beyond which they undergo dramatic changes.

Healthy and resilient ocean ecosystems function similar to the United States government’s system of checks and balances—different species do similar things but in slightly different ways, which help keep these systems both interconnected and even-keeled. However, when we reduce species populations so much they can no longer do their part, we alter the natural balance of the system, which can have grave effects.

Luxuriant kelp forests that support marine mammals and a myriad of other species provide us with various ecosystem services like seafood, agar (sugar made from kelp), recreation, and sheltering the coastline from waves. However, these habitats can turn to rocky barrens very rapidly when they reach their tipping points. We witnessed this in the 1800s when fur hunting became prevalent—decreasing the sea otter population. With fewer sea otter to consume urchins, urchins became overabundant, overgrazing the kelp and causing forests to disappear.

Fortunately, science is providing insights into the factors that make ocean ecosystems more capable of resisting these kinds of changes, and more able to bounce back when they are damaged; in other words, the attributes that make some systems more resilient than others.  Having lots of species with different ecological jobs (biodiversity and niches) is very important, as is having several species doing the same job but in slightly different ways (functional redundancy).  Lots of genetic diversity within species and populations is important as well.  It’s a little like rocket science: rockets are complex systems that are made more robust and resilient (i.e., less likely to blow up) by building in redundant subsystems.  Nature has done that one better by building in even more diversity, allowing coral reefs for example to recover from hurricanes and even volcanic eruptions that devastate human communities.

In an ocean in which the temperature, pH, currents, weather, and human uses are changing, it makes much more sense to manage for resilient ecosystems than manage for maximum sustainable yield of one species or another.  Who knows what the next big impact to the ocean will be?  We need to increase resiliency so that no matter what, ocean ecosystems can persist and continue to provide the many valuable ecosystem services upon which we depend.  Our new paper draws on the science of ecosystem resilience and lays out a policy framework for achieving this goal.

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Ecomarkets: Scaling Up Marine Conservation

Originally published in the Huffington Post Green Blog: 12/30/12

The ocean is enormous, supporting a vast array of life while providing food, fuel, recreation, and spiritual rejuvenation.  But efforts to conserve the ocean, though valiant, are meager compared to the scale of the threats to the ocean.  Ocean conservation advocates have achieved many notable successes, such as dramatic reductions in certain kinds of pollution, the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and major improvements in fishery management in some areas of the world.  However, a recent analysis that EDF participated in suggests that 40% of the ocean is still strongly impacted by a range of threats, including shipping, the modification of rivers and estuaries, coastal development, pollution, and overfishing.  How can we scale conservation efforts up to match the ocean’s vastness and the severity of these threats?

To answer this question, we must first accurately diagnose the problem. Conventional markets, which drive so much of mass human behavior, only value a few of the many goods and services that the ocean provides, like fish and oil.  The critically important ocean processes that produce fish, regulate the climate, assimilate wastes, and provide all of the other goods and services on which the diversity of ocean life and we humans depend are generally not valued by markets.  Because markets see value only in parts of the ocean, and not in the whole, the valuable pieces are extracted and the rest is degraded.

Conservation has been pushing back against market forces, among the most powerful forces in the world, in the form of regulation.  While regulations like water quality standards and MPAs can be very effective, they often depend on high levels of enforcement because they are working against market forces and the incentives to exploit valuable resources without stewarding the ecosystems that support them.  Regulations in this context are often perceived as threats to livelihood and human welfare, resulting in opposition and conflict.  It is not surprising that it typically takes many years and sometimes decades to get ocean conservation measures in place. Read More »

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