Tag Archives: Fishing

EDF Statement in Response to Today's "Keep Fishermen Fishing" Rally

Hundreds of fishermen rallied today in Washington, D.C. to voice frustration over fishing regulations.  We understand that many fishermen are frustrated, often for good reason.  Even though some fisheries have rebounded, in many places preventing overfishing has meant shrinking fishing seasons or even implementing closures, approaches that have serious economic impacts and limit access.

However, the focus should not be on gutting the law.  Instead we need to use the flexibility in the law and innovative management approaches to address the challenges we face.  For example, NOAA is using this flexibility to address the looming crisis with Gulf of Maine cod, using the law’s emergency provisions to allow higher levels of fishing while open scientific questions are investigated further.  Many sides have come together to propose a solution that we hope will protect both the fish and the fishermen.

We can't go back to overfishing, but we can use ideas available under existing law to rebuild fisheries and give fishermen the flexibility to improve both fish populations and profits.  While many speakers at today’s rally pushed various bills that would impose top-down mandates from Washington, we believe fishery management is best decided at the council level where fishermen can directly influence how the resource they depend on is managed.

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Catch Shares Improve Safety for a Dangerous Job

Fishermen hauling in a fishing trawl.

Fishermen hauling in a trawl.

Today, fishing once again topped the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list of most dangerous jobs in the U.S. In 2010, commercial fishing had a fatality rate per 100,000 full-time-equivalent employees 33 times the average rate for U.S. workers.  Although fortunately fishing’s fatality rate did decrease from 2009, it remains true that fishermen faced the highest chance of dying on the job compared with other occupations in the U.S.

Many things make fishing dangerous, but the way we regulate the industry can make things worse. For example, regulators often manage fishing by limiting when fishermen can be on the water, such as by setting short seasons, allocating a limited number of days at sea or shutting down a fishery when too many fish have been caught.

In order to catch enough fish to stay in business, fishermen must race to catch them before others do, which can lead to fishing in dangerous weather conditions, keeping exhausted crews on the water and overloading boats with excessive gear. All of these methods maximize catch in the short term but risk lives.

In contrast, catch shares give fishermen a secure amount of seafood they don't have to race their peers to catch. Catch shares provide flexibility to choose when to fish based on the weather and market conditions. Read More »

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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.

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