Photo credits: Noel Lopez Fernandez, Jason Houston, Carlos Aguilera
Today, fisheries provide just a fraction of their potential in terms of food and income. Although many threats, including climate change and habitat loss, contribute to the declining health of the oceans, overfishing remains the leading cause of fishery depletion worldwide. Globally, 40% of fisheries are in deep trouble and outdated management is squandering more than 50 billion dollars in potential income.
The good news is that by tackling overfishing, we can unleash the oceans’ natural resilience and achieve a dramatic recovery in fish populations.
We are making progress every day transitioning more fisheries to sustainable management policies and practices that help create much healthier oceans that support more fish, feed more people and improve livelihoods. These outcomes go hand in hand, because a healthier, more resilient ocean is also one that can support larger harvests. Read More »
Recently, I traveled to Belize to see how TURF-reserves (territorial use rights for fishing co-located with no-take zones) are performing and learn about plans to expand them nationwide. The Mesoamerican Reef, the largest in the Atlantic Ocean, spans the Belizean coastline and is rich in biodiversity and a crucial source of income for thousands of fishers. Coastal fisheries, however, are at risk due to overfishing, and other pressures such as coastal development and climate change.
In Belize, fishers have seen a decline in their catch, and the Belize Fisheries Department is using TURF-reserves to provide fishers the right incentives to become better stewards of their resources. As fishers take better care of their fishing area they will realize benefits and secure them for future generations. This approach to fisheries management is known as “Managed Access.” In 2008 the Belize Fisheries Department began working with EDF, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE), and other Belizean institutions to deploy two Managed Access pilot projects.
Motivated by the success of the projects, the Belizean government is committed to expanding Managed Access to nearly half its fishing grounds, setting the country on a course to comprehensively rebuild and conserve its fisheries and precious biodiversity. Read More »
Gumercindo Cano, a Managed Access fisherman, takes the meat out of a conch shell Photo credit: Heather Paffe
Fishing in the developing tropics looks very different from fishing in the United States. It’s easy to forget that millions of people around the world rely on wild fish for their daily protein and survival, rather than being able to purchase it from a grocery store. This is the case in the countries where EDF will work in partnership with Rare and University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) on our ‘Fish Forever’ project. Fish Forever will focus on work with communities in the developing tropics to reduce overfishing and implement new guidelines that will allow fisheries to recover and more consistently provide the nutrition that so many depend upon. Part of that work will establish territorial user rights in fisheries (TURFs – called Managed Access in Belize), coupled with no-take reserves (replenishment zones/Marine Protected Areas) to advance sustainable fisheries, empower fishermen and bring those solutions to scale.
I recently returned from a governance committee trip to Belize with our partners, Brett Jenks, President of Rare, and Steve Gaines, Dean of UCSB's Bren School of Environmental Science and Management and principal investigator for the Sustainable Fisheries Group. This trip was a vital way to connect with the community and government on the ground in Belize and understand the skills that each member of the partnership brings to the table. Read More »
In the United States today, 65% of all fish caught in federal U.S. waters comes from catch share programs, which helped drive a 17 year high in fish landings last year. We are continuing to see evidence that catch shares can help to rebuild fish populations while providing fishermen with more stable and profitable jobs as the stock recovers. Last year was exciting and productive for our Oceans team. We want to look back at the year with you, and look forward to how we will continue working with fishermen and fishery managers to restore fish populations at home and abroad. Our goals for 2013 are to:
Improve the health and profitability of U.S. commercial fisheries and ocean ecosystems
Advance Pilot Projects that improve recreational fisheries by partnering with recreational fishermen
Promote catch shares internationally
Work with fishery stakeholders and scientists to improve science, data collection and monitoring in both catch share and non-catch share fisheries for improved management.
In 2011, just three catch share programs (the Pacific Groundfish IFQ, New England sector program, and the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper IFQ programs) saved nearly 16 million pounds of fish from being wasted last year as discards—enough to feed about one million Americans their seafood for a year.
In the Pacific Region, January 2012 marked the first-year anniversary of a catch share management program for more than 60 species of commercially important groundfish. EDF played a key role in the program’s development, and we are working hard to ensure its durability. In the first year, West Coast fishermen discarded 80% fewer fish than in the previous year, and their revenues reached $54 million—42% higher than the previous five-year average (2011 NOAA Report). Read More »