By: Kristin M. Kleisner
Last week at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, a session entitled “Questioning our Changing Oceans,” sponsored by The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, The Environmental Defense Fund, The Island Institute, and The Nature Conservancy, sought to address some of the major issues related to climate change that the fishing industry has been experiencing. The panel included Jake Kritzer (EDF) as well as local scientists Andy Pershing (GMRI) and Jon Hare (NOAA), along with headliners Capt. Keith Coburn of the hit show ‘Deadliest Catch’, Capt. Buddy Guindon of the new breakout hit ‘Big Fish, Texas,’ and fishermen from as far as Western Australia.
The panel highlighted two NOAA studies recently published in PLOS ONE that highlight the vulnerability of marine fish and invertebrate species such as American lobster and scallops on the U.S. Northeast Shelf to the effects of climate change. Both studies illuminate important trends in species adaptation that will help inform future management decisions in the region. Read More
The good news keeps rolling in about the performance of fisheries managed with secure fishing rights – called “catch shares” in the United States.
An important, detailed analysis of all 20 US catch-share fisheries, authored by scientists and economists of NOAA’s Office of Science and Technology and six regional fisheries science centers, was just issued in the journal, Marine Policy.
The bottom line is that the 13 well-studied catch shares show strong performance, with important increases in an index that adds together a wide array of economic productivity elements and that takes into account changes in relative fish abundance. Even in just the first three years, that index gains an average of 22% versus baseline years (see Table 7). For the six longest-established catch shares, the index is an average of 77% higher after the third year, with no increase lower than 14% (see Table 8). Read More
Fishing shack along a mangrove channel, Brazil
I recently visited Brazil for the first time to work with our partners in Fish Forever to choose sites to work in over the next several years, with the goal of turning fisheries with declining yields and profits into success stories for fishermen, their communities, and the environment. Fish Forever is a partnership between Rare, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the Environmental Defense Fund.
Brazil’s 300,000 square mile shelf produced about 550,000 tons of seafood in 2011, worth over $US 1.5 billion, and employs about 1 million people according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Read More
For Republicans, this week's midterm elections are cause for almost unreserved celebration. GOP candidates came close to sweeping the table in competitive House and Senate races around the country. Among the winners were Republican incumbents who have been constructive partners on fisheries issues and who were strongly supported by EDF Action, our sister organization: leaders like Senator Susan Collins in Maine and Congressman Chris Gibson in New York.
One House race, however, ran starkly against the trend. Two-term Republican incumbent Steve Southerland went down to a stunning defeat in the Florida panhandle's second congressional district. While many factors shaped the outcome—not least of which was a series of missteps on the campaign trail by an incumbent facing a smart and savvy challenger—make no mistake: Steve Southerland's outspoken anti-oceans agenda was on the ballot in Florida 2, and his defeat is a strong repudiation of the incumbent’s approach. It is yet another sign that ‘politics as usual’ in fisheries management is changing as fishermen and environmentalists work together to build healthier and more productive fisheries. Read More
A friend of mine recently asked me, ‘Why do you work on fisheries?’
I began to talk about how fisheries is the ultimate tragedy of the commons problem, an economic term coined by Garett Hardin in the 1960s which explains how individuals act in their individual best interest rather than do what is best long term for the group. I talked about how governments are challenged by managing shared natural resources and how this is even more complex with ocean fisheries since we do not see the fish disappear beneath the surface.
That long and “technical” answer may be part of the reason, but it doesn’t fully explain why I do what I do. The real answer is much simpler. I love our oceans. I have spent all my summers on an island on the Swedish west coast called Koster, where the water is clear and full of life. And I grew up in Stockholm – a city surrounded by water. I took my diving license at age 16, as soon as I was allowed, even though this meant training and doing my final dives in February on the east coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea, with sub-zero temperatures and visibility of less than a meter. Read More
Fishing boat coming in from Galveston Bay.
Photo Credit: Roy.Luck
Galveston Bay is a busy body of water. It carries the traffic of the Houston Ship Channel. It is a popular recreation destination for fishermen and others. It not only serves as a home to birds and large marine animals, but also as a nursery ground for many important seafood species. It is the nation’s seventh largest estuary and among them the second most important seafood producer, behind only the Chesapeake Bay.
The immediate effects of the oil spill on March 22, 2014, are visible in the oil sheens and tar balls floating in the water and the “oiled” birds and animals that crews are trying to help. But, we can’t see how this heavy marine fuel, containing toxic chemicals including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), is harming shrimp, crabs, oysters, red drum and other fish that call the waters of Galveston Bay home. This contamination can hang around for a long time. Studies from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill show that even in low concentrations PAHs can disrupt the development of fish and invertebrate larvae; and in high concentrations can be lethal. Recent reports of tunas susceptible to deformities from the 2010 spill attest to the potential risks long after the spill itself is gone.
The timing of this spill is bad for several key species especially important to the seafood industry and consumers. Brown shrimp have already spawned offshore, and March is the month when the young ride tides coming back inshore to settle in seagrass beds and marshes, habitats that are their nurseries – and where the water is now contaminated with oil pollution. The young are especially vulnerable from now until about May or June. Young blue crabs that settled during the winter in Galveston Bay are also in danger, as are baby fish; including Gulf menhaden, a large harvest in the region’s fishing industry and a fish that is a vital food for larger fish and other animals. Marine life in the way of the oil is dying; and those not killed are exposed to toxic chemicals that could impair their reproductive potential, and some fish that feed on worms in bottom sediments may acquire and carry toxics in their tissues. The seafood “crops” in the area could well be reduced.
Anyone who has been to Galveston Bay has seen the many dolphins are other large marine life that frequent the area and eat these other fish. As these contaminants enter Bay food chains our concern turns not only to how these animals are affected by the spill in the short term, but also to their longer-term health, and even to whether or not seafood species that live there could constitute a human health risk that must be guarded against into the future. Read More