A number of scientific studies indicate that warming waters are affecting fish populations globally—and often in unpredictable ways. This finding is significant for fisheries management because as fish populations shift, whole ecosystems are changed. A recent study covering 40 years of data illuminates these changes in fish distributions and a Huffington Post article examines the research conducted to date and highlights the uncertain implications of this knowledge. The article extensively quotes our own scientist and Director of Spatial Initiatives, Jake Kritzer. Jake comments on the difficulty of making management predications without a complete understanding of how complex underwater ecosystems are shifting:
“It's an immensely complicated situation. You have climate change overlaying everything, and it seems to be changing the way everything works, which means we have a lot of problems. It's getting harder and harder to assess the stocks, to model them and understand their dynamics and predict what's going to happen. Because those models are based on years and years of experience reading fish stocks and studying them, they have been tested over a long time and they rely on a certain set of assumptions and conditions that now seem to be rapidly changing. Tools that have been fairly well established and worked well in the past just don't seem to be working as well anymore."
Read the full Huffington Post article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/17/ocean-climate-change-fishing-industry_n_3275505.html
Access the recent study published in Nature from researchers in British Columbia: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v497/n7449/full/497320a.html
Recently a US Senate subcommittee held a hearing entitled “Developments and Opportunities in US Fisheries Management,” with testimony by federal, regional and state officials that focused on the need for collaboration in fisheries management and decision-making based on sound science. More than two and a half hours of testimony and questioning by Senators focused on the role of science and the Magnuson Stevens Act in effective management of our nation’s fisheries, especially summer flounder or “fluke.”
New York and New Jersey have long been embroiled in an interstate conflict over what New York Senator Chuck Schumer has called “our decades long fight to bring fairness, flexibility, and accountability into the management of summer flounder.” To that point, a reoccurring theme in the testimony was that effective fisheries management requires high quality data and regular stock assessments. This notion was also echoed at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing a week earlier.
What is clear in the early hours of debating MSA’s reauthorization is that stakeholders across the board are focused on a common top priority – simply, good science is fundamental to good management. This reality is at the core of the interstate summer flounder battle, with NY arguing that the use of outdated data has led to an unequal allocation of fish between states.
Fluke is an important species. Managed jointly by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, the 2012 stock assessment indicated that it is not overfished and that overfishing is not occurring. Fishery managers have allocated 60% of the fluke harvest to the commercial fishery and 40% to the recreational fishery. While the commercial quota is allocated between the states based on historical commercial landings (a common practice), the recreational harvest targets are assigned proportionally to the states based on estimated harvest data in 1998 using a data collection method called the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS). Herein lies the cause of conflict. MRFSS is antiquated and is actively being replaced. It is considered largely unreliable by anglers up and down the East Coast and limited in efficacy by managers, and 1998 was 15 years ago. I’m willing to bet the characteristics of the fleet and the fishery have also changed significantly over that time. Read More
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.
Photo from NOAA/NEMFC invitation
On November 9 the New England groundfish industry will have an opportunity to discuss the state of fishery science with scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The workshop in Portsmouth, NH responds to criticism generated by abrupt changes in scientific evaluations of the status of fish stocks that support fishing communities from Maine to New Jersey. The goal of the meeting is to improve assessments by sharing knowledge among fishermen and scientists.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) supports greater involvement of fishermen in the stock assessment process and encourages fishermen to work with scientists to ensure that their knowledge and experience add to our understanding of these valuable resources. EDF has developed recommendations aimed at producing the most dependable stock assessments possible. The accumulated knowledge of the fishing industry can contribute to improved stock assessments, and greater industry participation can increase confidence in fishery science.
The first priority is to expand the fleet of potential survey vessels by augmenting surveys by government boats with more extensive surveys using commercial fishing vessels. We believe this is the single most important step that can be taken to improve the reliability of stock assessments and confidence in those assessments. Read More
Photo Credit: Gerick Bergsma 2010/Marine Photobank
The world’s fish stocks can be rebuilt to provide more nourishment and economic value to the millions of people who rely on the ocean for food—if we step up now and make aligning these incentives a global priority.
The magazine Science has published a study that provides new insights into thousands of fisheries where scientific data has not been historically available. These “data poor” fisheries make up a majority of the world’s catch, around 80 percent. According to this new research, many of these fisheries are facing collapse, but there is still time to turn the situation around. The study indicates that it is possible for fisheries to recover globally, which would increase the abundance of fish in the ocean by 56% and in some fisheries’ yields could more than double.
With these new assessments, fishery managers and world leaders can have a more comprehensive view of the status of our global fisheries. There are many new insights into previously unmeasured fisheries, using new methodology that can have enormous implications for managing the resource sustainably.
The report also provides some hope and insights on how the world can reverse these trends. Read More
Reprinted with permission from SeafoodNews.com
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [seafoodnews.com] Jan 12, 2012 By Kate Bonzon
The following article was written by Kate Bonzon, who works for EDF and was one of the authors of a new scientific paper published in Marine Policy that analyzed the performance of 15 catch share programs in the US and Canada. She argues the data shows these programs met most of their goals, especially in the area of conservation, reduced discards, and increased revenue to harvesters. There was a shift in jobs from a larger number of part time jobs to a smaller number of full time jobs, which had varying social impacts depending on the fishery.
America's fisheries, and the fishing communities they support, have struggled for decades to find a way to both rebuild depleted fish stocks and allow fishermen to earn a decent living. But it has become increasingly evident over the years that traditional management practices – such as drastically curtailing the fishing season – were failing to achieve either of these goals: fleets shrunk, revenues dropped, fishermen were often forced to put out to sea in bad weather, and the industry grew highly unstable. Fish stocks, meanwhile, continued to decline.
The latest effort to achieve that balance – a management approach known as “catch shares,” has generated much discussion among fisheries stakeholders over whether this approach is any better or worse than previous efforts. Now, a recent analysis of 15 fisheries in the United States and British Columbia published in the journal Marine Policy, provides data that clearly show significant environmental and economic improvements in fisheries that have made the transition to catch shares, an approach that allocates fishermen a share of the total allowable catch in exchange for making them accountable for staying within the catch limit.
Discards declined substantially with catch share fisheries.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing to implement a new rule this year that can help improve our understanding of sea turtles and how the fishing industry interacts with them. This is good news because the current data on “sea turtle interactions” isn’t very plentiful in most fisheries. The rule would be important because managers need to understand the activities that affect sea turtles so they can develop effective conservation programs that recover threatened and endangered populations, such as Loggerhead sea turtles.
The rule would work by identifying fisheries in state and federal waters that will be required, upon NMFS’ request, to take scientific observers on fishing trips to gather information about the number of sea turtles encountered and the types of interactions. Several fisheries would be put on a list, called an Annual Determination, and would be subject to carrying observers for 5 years. NMFS is proposing to include fisheries such as trawl fisheries and gillnet fisheries in this Annual Determination.
In addition to the use of observers, NMFS should consider using new technologies (such as at-sea video monitoring) that can be cost effective and may allow an increase in the level of monitoring, especially in fisheries where accommodating an observer is difficult.
Good data will help NMFS evaluate existing sea turtle protections and develop better management measures. Regulations based on good data, sound science, and industry, accountability can improve management of sea turtles and help rebuild endangered populations.