Selected tags: Fishery Management

Catch Shares are Working: Keep Them as a Management Option

NOAA Fish Stock Sustainability IndexCatch 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.

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Charting a Course for Gulf of Maine Cod: Part II

Atlantic cod

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 »

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Charting a Course for Gulf of Maine Cod: Part I

Atlantic cod

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 »

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EDF Agrees with 8 New England Senators, We Should Focus on Refinements to Enhance the Groundfish Sector Management Program

Emilie Litsinger, EDF Oceans NE Groundfish Project Manager

Emilie Litsinger, EDF Oceans NE Groundfish Project Manager

This week senators from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island sent a letter to Eric Schwaab, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, proposing several refinements to enhance the New England groundfish sector management program.  EDF agrees that we need to be adaptive and sectors – as with all fisheries management tools — need to be refined as experience is gathered and evaluated.  With more than a year of operation under sectors now complete, results of the program’s performance show signs of progress that the fishery has started to turn the corner to a more ecologically and economically stable fishery.

EDF agrees with the senators and is very focused on improving the at-sea monitoring program so that is more reliable, comprehensive, and cost effective.  At-sea monitoring costs need to be reduced and the use and electronic monitoring systems need to be approved.  EDF commissioned Northern Economics Inc to conduct an independent 3rd party review of the current sector monitoring program to compare the program with similar programs on the Pacific Coast and in Alaska to make recommendations for improving the design and reducing the costs of the program.  Read More »

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‘Finding the Ways that Work’ in California Fisheries

By Guest Blogger, Huff McGonigal, fisheries consultant to EDF and the lead on our California fisheries projects with the spiny lobster fishery.

Spiny Lobster

Spiny Lobster

For the last 10 years, California has been working to create one of the most extensive networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the world.  When it’s complete later this year, this network will help protect California marine ecosystem for generations to come.  But while MPAs will form a cornerstone for marine management in the state, simply closing these areas to fishing will not ensure sustainable fisheries off California.  Healthy fisheries, and the communities and jobs that depend on them, require that focus now be shifted to effective management of the 84% of state waters that remain outside the MPA network.

The challenge in California, as in many states, is the persistent lack of agency resources available to move fisheries management forward in a meaningful way.  This is exacerbated by a progressive law in California called the Marine Life Management Act that requires that fisheries be managed under Fishery Management Plans (FMPs).  While the law’s concept of holistic management is a good one, the expense of creating these plans has largely kept them from being developed and management regimes have therefore remained stuck.

In 2008 EDF was approached by leaders of the spiny lobster fishery who were seeking to better control their fishing effort in order to maintain the fishery’s sustainability and economic viability.  There was concern in the fishery that every year there was increasing pressure for fishermen to use more and more traps in order to compete for lobster and for fishing grounds.    Further, as fishing grounds are lost to MPAs, fishing will be squeezed into an even smaller area, making these problems more acute.  However, the requirement that change be carried out through a FMP presented a major obstacle.  The state’s budget problems were worse than ever and the traditional approach, where the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) develops the FMP internally, was not possible.  DFG and the fishery both agreed to try a new approach where DFG retained oversight of the process but where the majority of development would be carried out by contracted, outside expertise.  EDF worked hand in hand with industry,  DFG, and other partners to develop a budget and a broadly supported grant proposal to the Ocean Protection Council to secure the funding necessary to make this new model a reality.

After an extensive peer review, the Ocean Protection Council funded the full request amount of $990,000.  In doing so it formally opened a new avenue for new fisheries management tools and approaches in California.  Not only will this allow the lobster fishery to adjust to the new MPA network, but it represents a scalable model where national and international expertise can be directly engaged in FMP development and for a third of the cost of traditional FMPs.

There is now a pathway in California for coupling and integrating the MPA network with thoughtful, strategic management of fisheries – where closed areas are complemented by well managed open areas, and vice versa.   To do this successfully will establish California as a true leader in ocean governance, and in the end, this is what it will take to ensure a healthy ecosystem, sustainable fisheries, and strong fishing communities.

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New England Groundfish Fishermen Should Benefit from Unused Quota

With the support of Senator John Kerry, Congressman Bill Keating, and Congressman Barney Frank, New England groundfish fishermen are asking if they can “carry over” a portion of unused catch for the upcoming fishing year.  EDF thinks this makes sense and will work with NMFS and the New England Fishery Management Council to support putting this into place.

Carry-over is generally allowed under catch share programs for two reasons.  First, catch limits in later years are often set assuming a certain level of catch in earlier years.  If the actual catch is less than the maximum allowed in a given year, that typically will result in a higher level of sustainable yield the following year.  Second, allowing carry-over prevents a rush by fishermen to meet their quota limits at the end of the season.  Such a rush could disrupt all the benefits catch shares can deliver with respect to careful and selective fishing practices that minimize bycatch and habitat impacts, and strategic choices of when and where to fish in response to weather conditions, market demand, and other factors.

Harvested catch in first 94% of 2010 fishing year (all sectors) vs. Allowed catch for entire 2010 fishing year (all sectors)In this first year of the New England groundfish sector program, like the first year of many new management programs, fishermen undoubtedly were cautious as they figured out how best to fish their quota.  It makes sense to let fishermen benefit from the conservative harvest seen in the first year of sectors.

Sector fishermen are already allowed to carryover up to 10% of any unused quota.  It is clear from looking at the amount of unused quota (see chart below) that the catch of many stocks will be more than 10% below the science-based catch limits set to guard against overfishing.  Rather than simply forgo the socio-economic benefits to be gained from at least some of the unused quota, we hope fishery managers can allow fishermen to reap some of the rewards of their conservative fishing this year.

Support seems to be steadily building towards having NMFS and the New England Fishery Management Council take active steps to decide what amount of additional unused quota can safely be carried over for the species that were underfished in 2010.  The appropriate percentage levels should be based on the biology of each species, so that we don’t set the fishery back by jeopardizing rebuilding of overfished stocks and compromising the productivity of rebuilt stocks.  However, it is unlikely that all of the unused quota should be carried over.  After all, natural mortality continues to act upon the stock, and will remove some of the fish that would have been harvested had the full quota been fished.  A scientific analysis can determine how much of the fishing year 2010 quota is likely to still be available to the fleet in fishing year 2011.

Taken together, this measure, as well as the increased ACLs for many groundfish stocks next year and fishermen’s continually improving ability to navigate the sector program, should lead to increased yields and revenues across the fleet, and a more economically and environmentally stable fishery in 2011.

Jake Kritzer is EDF’s Senior Marine Scientist for the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions.  He is also Vice-Chair of the New England Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee, among other advisory appointments.

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National Panel Releases Recommendations on Communities and Catch Share Policy

Community Dimensions of Fisheries Catch Share Programs

Community Dimensions of Fisheries Catch Share Programs

A national panel on “the Community Dimensions of Fisheries Catch Share Programs” released its recommendations today.  The Panel, convened by Ecotrust, found that options for improving communities and fisheries explode under catch shares, but they don’t happen on their own and more work and energy are needed to fully exploit the benefits of catch shares.

Overall, the panel’s findings are good news for communities that have suffered under traditional fisheries management.  Its findings highlight how well-designed catch shares benefit our fishing communities by enhancing economic development.  Under catch shares, there is a menu of options that were never before available to fishing communities.

However, like our brains, we are only using a small percentage of catch shares’ potential.   Fishermen and other stakeholders can and should learn from past experiences to better implement catch shares.  There are myriad ways to design catch shares to maximize benefits for communities.  Where these approaches are being used, such as the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust and a community fishing association in Central California, communities are benefiting.  However, many more communities can benefit from these innovative approaches and in some cases, not all community-focused options have been used in the design of catch share programs.

Fishing communities, fishermen and other stakeholders have opportunities under catch shares that were never available under previous management.  We encourage stakeholders to envision their future and design catch shares to achieve their specific goals.  There are myriad options, including many of the recommendations highlighted in the Panel report and the Catch Share Design Manual.

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New Study in the Journal Nature Describes the Effectiveness and promise of Community-Based Fishery Management

Kate Bonzon, EDF Director of Design Advisory Services

Kate Bonzon, EDF Director of Design Advisory Services

A new study released this week in the journal Nature describes the effectiveness and promise of community-based fishery management.  Among others, the study highlights a catch share in Chile that has 20,000 participants and covers more than 1,500 square miles “making it one of the most successful abalone* fisheries in the world.”  The kind of catch share that covers this fishery is called a territorial use rights for fishing or TURF, an area-based management program that assigns a specific area to an individual, group or community.

*The Chilean system manages loco, a valuable sea snail, commonly called “false abalone” due to its appearance and taste.

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