Photo Credit: Natacha Hardy.
Alex Koeberle and Scituate Fisherman Frank Mirarchi
By: Alex Koeberle and Jake Kritzer
Following the hottest summer ever on record, the Atlantic coast was rocked recently by super storm Sandy, both stark reminders that climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. This year had already seen effects of climate change take on a more prominent place in marine conservation debates. In July, renowned Australian ecologist Dr. Roger Bradbury argued that the fate of coral reefs is essentially sealed due to warming waters, rising seas, acidification and extreme weather (although other prominent voices were quick to counter such doomsday predictions). Closer to home, an effort to restore Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River was ended after nearly a half-century, in part because changing ocean currents, temperature regimes and plankton production might be impairing the ability of salmon to survive at sea and migrate back to spawn.
It is not only salmon that are contending with effects of climate change in New England. The region is seeing sea levels rising faster than many other places around the globe, which threatens to drown salt marshes already struggling with excessive nutrient loads. Marshes help buffer coastal areas against storm surge, and provide vital nursery and feeding grounds for many important fish species. Ocean waters are not only rising but warming as well, one consequence of which has been a dramatic shift in the distribution of cod north of the primary fishing grounds in the western Gulf of Maine. Also, rainfall patterns are becoming increasingly erratic, altering salinity profiles and plankton production, which hampers productivity of species throughout the food web. Read More
Bruce Babbitt (Source: DOI) and Slade Gorton III (Source: US Senate)
On September 12 and 13, EDF had the pleasure of working with an unlikely but dynamic team of spokespeople. Former Secretary Bruce Babbitt, former Senator Slade Gorton III and Gulf Red Snapper Fisherman Buddy Guindon, met in Washington DC to share their support for catch share management systems with members of the press and the hill. Their message—Catch shares work, the world’s fisheries are in trouble and both democrats and republicans have a responsibility to protect fish stocks and fishermen moving forward.
Gorton and Babbitt, who admit they have not always agreed on issues in the past, have come together on fisheries management because they see catch shares as the way forward for sustainable and profitable fisheries. They believe that a lot of the opposition around catch shares stems from a lack of understanding and education.
In an interview with E & E reporter Laura Petersen, who wrote an excellent piece on this media tour, Gorton commented, "Maybe 30 or 40 members of the House of Representatives out of 435 have any knowledge of the issue at all, so it's easy, in a sense, to stampede them with sloganeering."
Babbitt agreed and added, “Fear of change is nothing new in resource management. The political culture is very resistant to change, and that is why education is so critical to assuage concerns and consolidate support.”
Watch an interview from this tour from E&E TV with Bruce and Slade.
Catch shares as a method of aligning economic and environmental incentives have been a hot topic in the news. The Atlantic published a piece by Jonathan H Adler, a professor of law, entitled “Property Rights and Fishery Conservation” which discusses fisheries as an ideal example of the ‘tragedy of the commons’ where introducing concepts of property rights are a smart solution. He writes, “The creation of property rights in an ecological resource not only creates incentives for greater resource stewardship, to conserve the underlying value of the resource today and into the future. It also gives those who rely upon the resource a stake in the broader set of institutions that govern the resource.” He asserts that traditional fishery management has failed world fish stocks and that catch shares are scientifically proven to rebuild the resource and protect the fishermen in the future.
Another story in the Economist entitled “Plenty More Fish in the Sea: Sensible Policies are Working” drew on the recent NOAA stock assessment for proof that utilizing smarter management and paying attention to science has rebuilt a record 6 fish stocks this year. This story gives a history of management that has failed fish stocks and urges Congress to keep catch shares as a management tool. “On May 9th the House passed legislation forbidding NOAA from developing an innovative means of apportioning fishing quotas, known as catch shares. These are long-term, aiming to give fishermen a stake in the future of their fisheries; market-based, since they can be traded; and, in practice, good for fish.”
Catch shares need to be carefully designed and are not a ‘silver bullet’ for all fisheries, but they should be kept on the table as an innovative tool that can help fishermen and fish populations. Decisions about fishery management should be made by Regional Councils, not Congress.
Posted in Uncategorized Also tagged Catch Shares
Atlantic Cod; Photo Credit: NOAA
Yesterday, I recounted the recent history of assessments of the Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod stock that has led to a looming crisis for many New England fishermen, and the management response underway in the form of emergency action. Today, I discuss two major goals that will most effectively use the time before us to potentially change our understanding of cod status, and avoid or minimize socio-economic hardship.
Expand our scientific perspective
Before the 2011 assessment had even been reviewed, a barrage of criticisms began to be levied. To be sure, many decisions made during the assessment could have gone a different direction, including data to include or exclude, values for key parameters, and determination of reference points. Renowned ecologist E.O. Wilson once observed that ecology is far more complex than physics, and fisheries science is a close cousin of ecology. There are few universal rules for how to assess fish stocks, and the discipline relies heavily on experience, professional judgment, vigorous debate, peer review, and trial and error. The GOM cod assessment was not lacking in any of those elements. In my view, the assessment was done right, was done well, and should be commended for achieving what it set out to do. Gerrymandering the assessment to get a more favorable outcome is both bad practice and bad policy. Read More
Atlantic Cod; Photo Credit: NOAA
By now, most people concerned with fisheries management in New England, and in fact many others across the country, are aware of the difficult situation unfolding around the Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod stock. For those who are not, a stock assessment completed late in 2011 drastically altered our perception of the stock from the last assessment completed in 2008, and suggests that the resource is in much worse shape than we previously thought.
Actually, in many ways the 2011 assessment tells a story similar to the 2008 assessment: Biomass reached all-time lows during the 1990s, but then approximately doubled by 2001. Thereafter, biomass dipped again to another low point in the mid-2000s, before climbing again toward the end of the 2000s.
The critical difference between the two assessments lies in the pace of rebuilding since the recent low in the mid-2000s. The 2008 assessment suggested that the population was increasing extremely rapidly, with growth of more than 200% from 2005 to 2007. In doing so, it had exceeded the overfishing threshold, and was well on its way toward the rebuilding target biomass that would produce the maximum sustainable yield on a continuing basis. Read More