Selected tags: Fisheries

How Behavioral Economics Could Save Both the Fishing Industry and the Oceans

Eric Pooley, EDF Senior Vice President for Strategy and Communications

Eric Pooley, EDF Senior Vice President for Strategy and Communications

Preview of Harvard Business Review Blog by Eric Pooley 

Read the full blog here

It's frightening enough that 87% of the world's assessed fisheries are fully or over-exploited. But it is even scarier to consider how little we know about the condition of most of the world's fisheries, because four-fifths of them have never been scientifically assessed. A recent study in the journal Science is providing fresh insights into thousands of fisheries where data has not been previously available. These "data poor" fisheries make up 80% of the world's catch — and many are on the brink of collapse.

Despite the dire news, there is a bright spot in the study. The authors conclude that the ocean is nowhere near a lost cause and with the right management tools, the abundance of fish could increase by 56%. In some places, the study says, fisheries yields could more than double.

This isn't just a big deal for the fish. As the authors of the Science study write, "When sustainably managed, marine fisheries provide food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people worldwide." So what's the key to seeing such a rebound become reality? An approach to overseeing fisheries known as rights-based management, or catch shares.

Over the past decade, catch shares have taken hold in U.S. waters, ensuring the sustainability of about 65% of the fish landed in the United States. This is the greatest unknown policy success of our time. Don't take my word for it — I work for the Environmental Defense Fund, a policy shop that has long championed the approach. Instead, consider the facts that helped lead the authors of the Science article draw that same optimistic conclusion.

Catch shares are a market-based management tool used in commercial fishing that, coupled with catch limits, have been successful in rebuilding fish populations while improving the efficiency and business of fishing. After decades of failed regulatory regimes, catch shares are working for fish and for fishermen. What's unfolding before our eyes is a global behavioral economics study — one that's delivering major benefits to people around the world.

The Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery, for example, was on the brink of collapse in the early part of the last decade. Fishermen were limited to 52-day seasons that were getting shorter every year. The shortened seasons, an attempt to counter overfishing, hurt fishermen economically and created unsafe "derbies" that often forced them to race into storms like the boats in The Deadliest Catch.

**Intrigued? Keep reading the blog at Harvard Business Review

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Greenwire E&E: Loan program that supports Calif. fishing industry wins sustainability award

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net. 202-628-6500

Laura Petersen, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A loan program dedicated to helping West Coast fisheries become more sustainable earned California's top environmental honor.

The California Fisheries Fund received the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, which recognizes individuals, organizations and businesses for finding innovative ways to protect natural resources while also strengthening the economy.

"It fits perfectly into the kind of themes the governor has chosen to promote," said Jim Marxen, a spokesman for the California Environmental Protection Agency, which handed out 17 awards last night. "Good environmental practices and a healthy economy must live together, and really this project is an epitome of that."

The $4 million fund, which began in 2008 with support from the state and foundations, provides loans to fishermen, processors and distributors to finance upgrades that result in more sustainable practices.For example, fisherman Steve Fitz recently received a loan to purchase his uncle's boat and continue the family tradition of using Scottish seine fishing gear, which herds ground fish into light nets that are far gentler on the surrounding habitat and reduces bycatch of other marine life.

"Money isn't that readily available to borrow in our industry," said Fitz, who works in Half Moon Bay. "Having access to the fisheries fund … allowed it to become a reality. Here I am, a new vessel owner."

The fund, which is administered by the Environmental Defense Fund, has distributed $1.7 million to 11 recipients to date. Read More »

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EDF Wins Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award for California Fisheries Fund

Environmental Defense Fund was awarded California’s highest environmental honor by Governor Jerry Brown at a ceremony last night for our creation of the California Fisheries Fund (CFF). The CFF, the first fisheries-specific loan fund in California and most comprehensive in the United States, provides capital to fishermen, fishing businesses and communities who are dedicated to safeguarding the environment, their fishery’s profitability and the greater oceans economy.

The award ceremony was hosted by California EPA in Sacramento, California. During his remarks, California EPA secretary Matthew Rodriguez said that the “entities that we’re recognizing tonight are really showing us the way forward. Their unique approach shows how, given a challenge, California businesses, nonprofit organizations and businesses can really rise to the occasion.”

There can be many business challenges for fishermen to transition to more environmentally-friendly fishing practices but with the California Fisheries Fund, we’re removing roadblocks and helping fishermen continue on the path to fishing sustainably and profitably.

So far, we have awarded fourteen loans totaling nearly $1.7 million to eleven borrowers including fishermen, fishing businesses and communities. Most recently, we closed a loan to Steve Fitz, a Half Moon Bay fisherman who attended the award ceremony with us.. Steve’s CFF loan allowed him to buy his boat from his uncle and carry on his family’s sustainable fishing legacy—operating the only commercial fishing operation in the nation that uses Scottish Seine gear. The most eco-friendly way to catch flatfish like Petrale sole and sand dabs, Scottish Seine gear consists of lines which gently guide fish into the path of light-weight nets. Unlike some other types of fishing techniques, Scottish Seine doesn’t use heavy gear that drags along the ocean floor. Read More »

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EDF Oceans Accomplishments of 2012 & Goals for 2013

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.

2012 Accomplishments:

United States:

  • 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 »

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Catch Shares Save Fishermen and Fish

Bubba Cochrane with his Boat the Chelsea Ann

Bubba Cochrane. Photo by Mark Thein of GulfWild.

This is a re-post of a National Geographic Blog posted by Miguel Jorge of National Geographic's Ocean Initiative on November 20, 2012

Bubba Cochrane always knew he wanted to be a fisherman. So, despite concerns from his family, he began his career as a deck-hand and eventually saved enough to buy a permit and boat of his own. He’s 43 years old now and owns a commercial fishing business out of Galveston, Texas. Business is good – but he can easily remember what fishing used to be like.

“When I got started, fishing was a race: when the season opened we fished every day until we were notified that the quota was caught. That meant lots of fishing all at once, a glut of fish in the market, and bad prices when we got back to the docks,” said Bubba, reminiscing about his early days in the fishery.

Through the mid-2000s, the red snapper fishery was on the brink of collapse. Even with so few fish in the population and a short season, the fishing derbies meant that the price at the dock stayed low, hurting the profits of commercial fishermen. Fishery managers tried to address the price problem by breaking up the season into the first 15, then 10 days of each month. Fishermen would fish for 10 days, and then wait until the next month to go out again.

These sporadic openings were not the solution fishermen like Bubba wanted. “It’s hard to run your business in just the first 15 days of a month; a lot can get in the way. I tell people to imagine a gas station only being able to sell gas for the first ten days of each month or a contractor only being able to build houses in that short window.” Read More »

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New Ocean Health Index Puts Focus on Fisheries

To manage anything well, you've got to measure it.  And you've got to make sure you are measuring the right things.  The new Ocean Health Index puts us on a path toward both of these goals.

The fact that the ocean scores only 60 out of 100 on the Ocean Health Index is good to know – it means that we humans are not doing a very good job in ensuring that the ocean provides the many benefits that it is capable of providing.  It's a little like finding out that your car is only producing 60% of its maximum power output, or that your garden is producing only 60% of the tomatoes that it could be producing.  You know that something is not right.

When you break the overall score down, it's clear that we are doing a particularly bad job getting food out of the ocean (score = 24 out of 100).  Although overall seafood production is up, most of it now comes from farms that feed fish that we don't eat a lot of (so – called forage fish like sardines and anchovies) to fish that we like to eat (like salmon and shrimp).  The problem is that the process of farming converts large amounts of forage fish into much smaller amounts of salmon and shrimp.  And the less forage fish we leave in the ocean, the less food there is for dolphins, albatrosses, sharks and the other wildlife that grace the ocean and enrich our existence.

The other way that we are getting it wrong on seafood production is that a lot of fisheries are not producing nearly as much as they could be, ironically because we've taken too much, too fast.  Fisheries are renewable resources, but in order to produce good yields over many years, it's critically important to leave enough fish in the water to produce the next generation.  Of the 30% of the world’s fisheries that have been assessed, it’s clear that we have been taking too much- resulting in high yields initially but low yields subsequently. Read More »

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Seattle Times Cites Benefits of West Coast Catch Share Program

Winona J Docked in Newport, Oregon

"This is a really big deal," said Will Stelle in a Sunday Seattle Times story which highlights the benefits of the groundfish catch share program on the West Coast. "It is restructuring the architecture of the fishery, building in very real and powerful incentives to do the right thing," said the Northwest regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service. The article cites several benefits that West Coast fishermen are seeing, including dramatic reduction of regulatory discards, fishing gear innovations and improved revenues. To read the full article, click here.

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EDF Oceans Program Mourns the Passing of Elinor Ostrom, Influential Economist and Nobel Prize Winner

It is with great sadness that EDF’s Oceans program mourns the loss of Elinor Ostrom, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who led groundbreaking research to better understand the “tragedy of the commons,” or the idea that shared public resources such as forests and fisheries will be depleted without proper regulatory controls.

Dr. Ostrom challenged the idea that regulations had to be federally mandated or ‘top-down,’ instead advocating for grassroots solutions and local engagement to address increased pressures on our resources.  Her research has been a foundation for EDF’s work on important issues such as Catch Shares, where direct involvement by local fisherman and stakeholders in fisheries management decision-making is critical to secure fishing jobs and strengthening fish populations.   We can attribute the switch from “command-and-control” style management of our fisheries here in the U.S., to a new, more decentralized and inclusive system, directly to Dr. Ostrom.

Her many accomplishments, insights and breakthroughs as the first woman in history to win the Nobel Prize in economics have impacted the work of our leadership and Oceans programs.  We owe Dr. Ostrom a debt of gratitude and will honor her work by continuing to foster local engagement in environmental and resource management issues around the world.

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