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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
"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.
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.
President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2013 budget earlier today, and we are pleased to see that it includes $174 million for sustainable fisheries work by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The appropriation will fund the science and management needed to support the commercial fishing industry that’s responsible for 1 million jobs and yields more than $32 billion in income every year.
The president’s budget includes $28 million for the National Catch Share Program, a critical part of the nation’s strategy to return its fisheries to abundance and keep fishermen on the water. It is the same level adopted by the Congress last year. We applaud the president and Congress for their support of catch share programs and we look forward to working with Congress to ensure that important fishery management functions have adequate funding and fishermen have all the tools they need, including catch shares.
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.