Selected tags: Fishing

Fishermen Speak Out about Safety Benefits of Catch Shares

Fishing is the deadliest occupation in the United States. In recent media coverage, individuals from the fishing industry described how catch shares can make fishing safer. By giving fishermen the flexibility to choose when to fish, catch shares end the dangerous race for the fish.

The article below from SeafoodNews.com recaps testimony during a hearing in Seattle that NOAA convened to get public comments as the agency updates a national standard on fishing safety. One attendee noted that “prior to the Halibut IFQ program, there averaged 30 Search And Rescue (SAR) missions per halibut opener.  After the implementation of the IFQ program, the fishery averages 5 SARs per year.”

In addition, the Alaska Journal of Commerce ran a compelling letter from the President of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, Jim Stone. Mr. Stone points to data from National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that illustrates the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands crab fishery has become less deadly with one fatality since the switch to catch shares. Read More »

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Improving Coral Reef Wildlife Trade Can Protect Reef Ecosystems

Coral Reef

Coral Reef

Coral reefs and their wildlife already face threats like ocean acidification and overfishing. The international trade in coral reef wildlife for “ornamental” uses like household aquariums, home décor, and jewelry also harms these ecosystems and reduces their ability to recover from other threats.

While EDF works with fishermen and fishery managers to use catch shares to end overfishing, we’re also working with other conservation and humane advocates to find solutions to the coral reef wildlife trade problem.

The problem’s scale is huge and growing. Globally, more than 30 million fish, 1.5 million live stony corals, 4 million pounds of dead coral and 5.5 million pounds of shells from thousands of species are removed from coral reef ecosystems in 45 countries each year.

The United States is the destination for up to 60% of these creatures. Though some U.S. importers demand responsible stewardship, most do not, so coral reef wildlife sold here are typically collected and imported using practices that cause significant environmental harm to wildlife and their surrounding environments.

Dead corals underwater

Dead corals

Collectors often squirt toxic chemicals like cyanide, bleach or gasoline into waters around coral reefs as sedatives, or they crush delicate corals to make collection of fish easier. These practices destroy critical habitats, remove the parasite cleaners and fragile reef-building species that rebuild and maintain the reef, and dramatically reduce biodiversity. To make matters worse, inhumane practices like these mean up to 40% of animals taken for importation die shortly after collection, forcing collectors to take even more animals, accelerating damage to coral reef ecosystems.

We can all be part of the solution.

If you’re stocking a home or business aquarium, ask the store for assurances that the creatures were collected and imported using sustainable and humane practices.

Solving this serious problem begins with understanding it. By improving the way we trade in coral reef wildlife, we can protect the health and sustainability of coral reef wildlife and the ecosystems they call home.

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Cautious Optimism and a Win for Groundfish as West Coast Catch Share Program Gets Underway

On January 11th, the new catch share program took effect for Pacific Ocean trawl-caught groundfish. The new management system was developed over a period of six years by fishermen, regulators and policymakers who recognized that the West Coast’s largest fishery was headed for the rocks.

As reported in the San Jose Mercury News, there is nervousness but also a cautious optimism that both fish and fishermen will win under the new system, just as they have in British Columbia and Alaska.

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Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association Hosts Seafood Festival

Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association Seafood Festival - People preparing food under a white tent

Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association Seafood Festival in St. Helena Island, SC.

A perk of working with fishermen is of course getting a chance to taste some of the best seafood around. When I learned that the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association would organize its very first annual seafood festival, I didn’t need to be convinced that it would feature the finest dishes in the Lowcountry. Held last Saturday in St. Helena Island, SC, the festival brought together visitors, neighbors, families, and friends for a celebration of good eating. 

The event was a fundraiser and membership drive for the newly founded organization. GGFA formed earlier this year as an outcome of meetings led by EDF and the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition to reach out to the African-American fishing community in the Southeast. Many within this community identify themselves as Gullah/Geechee, the descendents of West African enslaved people brought to the United States nearly 400 years ago.

Gullah/Geechee Seafood Festival - Container of collard greens, macaroni and cheese, cornbread and stuffed crab and other seafood.

Delicious food from the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association Seafood Festival

On Saturday, the air was flooded with the aroma of savory, traditional Gullah/Geechee seafood cuisine. Fried shrimp, whiting, flounder, oysters, deviled crab, steamed crab, shrimp and grits, and gumbo were only some of the dishes the association had to offer during the festivities. Members of the association supplied much of the seafood and served as chefs providing mouth watering fish hot off the stove. The food was nothing short of a feast.

In an interview earlier last week, Queen Quet, head of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and secretary of GGFA, conveyed the cultural significance of the festival. According to Queen Quet, it is important to support GGFA because of its objective to passed down this customary knowledge to the next generation. For the Gullah/Geechee, fishing is an aspect of their culture worth honoring. It is a life skill that endured the African Diaspora and later helped to provide financial independence for the people. Thus ensuring healthy marine resources is an essential piece to protecting this “unbroken” tradition.

Oyster shells in a large plastic white basket

Oyster shells

Turnout for the event was strong, helping to raise enough money just shy of the association’s goal. In lieu of the successful festival, the GGFA is already looking into plans for next year. 

Congratulations to GGFA for putting on a great event. The level of hard work that went into it was evident throughout the joyous occasion and was reflected in the delectable dishes.  Luckily for those who missed out, you have a year to work up an appetite for the next festival; I can promise you it will be worth the wait.

Posted in EDF Oceans General, Fishermen Voices, Seafood, South Atlantic| Also tagged , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

EDF Partners with National Geographic on "I Am The Ocean" Campaign

Help Protect the Ocean. Join I Am The Ocean today.Last week, National Geographic launched the campaign "I Am The Ocean", also referred to as Mission Blue. This effort in partnership with several environmental organizations, including EDF, sends out a global call to action to raise public awareness, start conversations, and inspire people to help protect the ocean.

One billion people worldwide depend on fish and shellfish for their protein. The ocean is key to sustaining life on the planet — from the air we breathe to the water we drink, so it is critical for us to protect it.

Through this action-oriented marine conservation initiative, you can participate by making the right seafood choices, volunteering for costal clean-up, and learning about 10 other things you can do to save the ocean. In addition, you can even purchase a bottle of "I Am the Ocean" wine and $4 will be donated to promote marine protected areas and reduce overfishing. Join "I Am The Ocean" today.

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Can Catch Shares Lower the Number of Fishery Closures?

Fishing Boat

The oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has put fishery closures in the headlines, but closures are nothing new or unusual.  In fact, numerous fisheries are closed every year. In an era of declining fish stocks, managers essentially have two tools at hand to meet the legal requirement of ending overfishing and rebuilding stocks – closures or catch shares. Closures have been used extensively and increasingly. 

In the last two years, nearly half of US federal fishery management plans (FMPs) have used emergency closures as a way to manage fishing effort. Closures prohibit fishermen from catching and landing species based on either area or time.  For example, managers may close an area of fishing grounds or an entire fishery for a particular period of time. 

Snapper boats docked

Emergency closures can affect all sectors of a fishery or may be focused on just one sector, such as recreational or commercial.  Often multiple types of closures–area, season and sector—are used to manage effort. 

Closures, as described here, are being used on an emergency basis to control fishing effort. Often, closures occur within a single year as a way to prevent fishermen from exceeding annual catch limits.  In instances where a species is at a critically low level, managers may close a fishery indefinitely.  

Note: There are times in which managers used planned closures to enhance the management of a fishery, such as closing certain areas or times to protect spawning aggregations.  These planned closures are not included in my discussion here.  Instead, this analysis focuses on unplanned closures that are used to manage fishing effort.

4,200 days – Number of fishing days lost in 2009 due to early season closures. 

This is equivalent to 11½ years! If early and indefinite season closures had not occurred in 2009, fishermen would have been able to fish over 9,700 days in those fisheries.  Instead, only about 5,500 days were open to fishermen for the affected species.  And the story in 2008 was similar – fishermen lost 5,000 days of fishing, down from over 9,900 that would have been possible without early or indefinite closures. 

The pattern in 2010 is continuing – 20 species managed under three FMPs have used early season closures from January to May, including an emergency closure in the commercial and recreational sectors of the Red Snapper Fishery in the South Atlantic Region.  Implementation of this closure has estimates of a $1.8 million loss for the commercial and recreational fleets.  The fishery is slated to open on June 2, 2010, but managers may extend the closure for another 186 day period.

Read More »

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New England Auction Managers Question Reports of Positive First Week Under Catch Shares

As published by John Sackton on SeafoodNews.com:

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS, May 12, 2010 – New Bedford, Boston, and Gloucester Auction owners question reports that suggest the first week of New England Fisheries under catch share managment were good.

In a May 11, 2010 report on the first week of landing reports under catch shares, Seafood News reported that offshore boats are thriving under new catch share rules in New England with regional landings up 4% in the first week.

While Seafood News' reporting of the numbers is accurate, the owners of the New Bedford, Boston, and Gloucester Seafood Display Auctions told Saving Seafood that the positive numbers mask the current realities and challenges facing fishermen.

Larry Ciulla of the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction told Saving Seafood that dayboats are not fishing. He noted that in a typical year, the first week of the fishery brings in 150,000 – 200,000 lbs. of grounfish, but this year only 30,000 lbs. were landed during the first week. He also noted that many vessels went out during the last week in April to use up allocations under the old system, and landed that product during the first week of May.

Richie Canastra of the New Bedford and Boston auctions also said that many vessels went out at the end of April with the specific intention of fishing under the old rules. He noted that vessels go out at the end of April and come in during early May in order to supply restaurant and market demand for seafood that spikes over Mothers' Day weekend.

Both Mr. Ciulla and Mr. Canastra pointed out that none of the boats that landed during the first week of May had fished entirely under the Sector regime. All of the landings reported during the first week of May included fish caught in April under the old system. The first landing of fish caught entirely under the new system at the Gloucester auction occurred during the day on May 11. At the New Bedford Auction, the first vessel landing with product caught entirely under the new system was expected late overnight on May 11-12.

Both Mr. Ciulla and Mr. Canastra indicated that an accurate comparison of data between this year's landings under the new system and last year's landings under the former system cannot be made until a full week has lapsed during which all landings are of catches caught under the new system.

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New England Sectors Will Ultimately Serve the Fishermen and the Fisheries Better

New England is going through a sea change this month. Fishermen who catch groundfish (cod, haddock, flounder) are shifting away from decades of failed management, which has led to the decline of fish populations and the loss of thousands of jobs. On May 1st, a type of catch share called sectors began for the groundfish fishery.

There are numerous benefits to fishermen who operate under sectors, as compared to traditional fishery management systems, such as a Days-at-Sea program:

  • Now fishermen have the freedom to decide how, when and where to fish.
  • Fishermen can keep a higher percentage of the fish they catch and are no longer legally forced to discard large amounts of economically valuable fish.
  • For the first time in decades, fishermen have the flexibility to create and follow an actual business plan.
  • For the first time, now fishermen can cooperate and time their landings so that they get a higher price for their fish and avoid market gluts.
  • The days of dangerous “derby-style” fishing are over. Fishermen don’t have to race the clock anymore and can develop innovative ways to avoid bycatch and fish more selectively.
  • Under sectors, fishermen are allowed to fish in portions of the Gulf of Maine Rolling Closure Areas and Georges Bank Seasonal Closure Area which were previously completely off limits to them.
  • Under sectors, fishermen no longer have to worry about “cod jail,” when they had to wait out the clock on the other side of the demarcation line to land their fish.

The transition to catch shares, particularly timed with new MSA requirements of annual catch limits and accountability measures will be challenging for many in New England’s fishing industry. Yet catch shares are an improvement from the alternative — the old days-at-sea system –which is broadly agreed to be broken.  This new system of management will take some getting used to but ultimately will serve the fishermen and the fisheries better.

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