In yesterday’s New York Times, Oceana’s Gib Brogan raised serious concerns in an Opinion piece, “A Knockout Blow for American Fish Stocks,” about both the future facing New England cod and the New England Management Council’s stewardship of the region’s fisheries resource. We share many of Gib’s concerns.
Fisheries management is too often presented as a choice between protecting the environment, on the one hand, and the economic interests of fishermen and coastal communities on the other. But we know from our experience in United States that the two are inextricably linked. With many fisheries around the country rebounding, fishermen are among the primary beneficiaries as catch limits increase. Conversely in New England, the collapse of cod presents a significant challenge to coastal fishing businesses; and the recent initiatives of the council on habitat and monitoring are dangerous precisely because they further jeopardize the fishery’s long-term prospects. Read More »
[Video credit: Archipelago, NMFS and Frank Mirarchi- FV Barbara Peters]
Collecting timely, accurate and complete information from fishing vessels is fundamental to successful fisheries management. There is an important nexus between the quantity and quality of data collected by monitoring programs that are used for fisheries science and management that makes it more credible to industry and other stakeholders.
EDF continues to work to improve the performance of New England groundfish sectors by supporting the design and implementation of a cost-effective and comprehensive monitoring program that incorporates the use of electronic monitoring (EM). The current crisis facing the groundfish fishery with low stock abundance and resulting quota cuts, and high uncertainty of stock assessments, highlights the need to produce reliable fisheries information. Read More »
Steve Fitz, captain of the F/V Mr. Morgan, will continue his family tradition operating the only commercial fishing operation in the United States that uses Scottish Seine gear, a selective and eco-friendly way to catch groundfish. Steve’s loan from the CFF helped him buy the Mr. Morgan from his uncle and start up Mr. Morgan Fisheries, a fishing business based in Half Moon Bay, specializing in sustainably harvested groundfish and Dungeness crab.
Mr. Morgan Fisheries is known for its sand dabs, Petrale sole and chilipepper rockfish—all species sustainably-managed under a catch share program. Like all other participants in this catch share program, the Mr. Morgan receives an individual fishing quota for several groundfish species that may be harvested throughout the year, with requirements for full accountability of every pound of fish harvested, and a human observer on every fishing trip. These new fishing practices guarantee there is no overfishing and Steve can use that message to market his fish with the 100% Federal At-Sea Monitoring No Overfishing Guaranteed label.
Steve Fitz grew up fishing with his father in New England before moving west and graduating from University of Denver with a degree in business. About eighteen years ago, he moved out to Half Moon Bay, California, to fish with his uncle, eventually becoming the captain of the F/V Mr. Morgan in 2000. Read More »
The November issue of Fishermen’s News includes in-depth look at the transformation of fishing for almost 100 species along the West Coast since catch shares were introduced last year.
The West Coast Groundfish Catch Share Program was first proposed by fishermen who realized that their fishery was on an unsustainable course. Design and development of the program took about seven years, and required a collaborative approach among diverse stakeholders: small-boat fishermen, large “mothership” trawlers, environmental groups, state officials, regional Council members and NOAA officials, just to name a few.
“Coos Bay-based trawler Rex Leach said he had ‘some pretty big reservations’ about catch shares, but after the first year, he’s ‘happy to say I was wrong.’ Discards are nearly non-existent and he can now plan groundfish landings when it’s convenient for his operation.”
All fishing communities have one thing in common: they depend on healthy, productive fish stocks. Catch share management programs benefit fishing communities by helping to stabilize fisheries. Fishing is inherently unpredictable, because it depends so much on ever-changing conditions in the oceans. Since well-designed catch share systems give fishermen more flexibility to time their fishing activities, they are significantly better than traditional management methods at helping fishermen cope with negative fluctuations in barometric readings or in dock prices paid for the fish they deliver.
Well-designed catch share systems also include tools and mechanisms that benefit communities, things you won’t find under traditional management.
Over the years, thousands of fishing jobs have been lost due to declining fishing opportunities. Under conventional management, fishermen face ever-increasing limits on harvest levels, and shorter and shorter fishing seasons. When fishing is allowed, conventional management often forces fishermen into a dangerous and inefficient race for fish.
One example; in the days before catch shares, the West Coast trawl fishery was on a downward economic spiral. Processing plants were shuttered, infrastructure was lost, and ports became shadows of their former selves. It was death by a thousand cuts – with extended fishery closures, a federal disaster declaration, dwindling trip limits, and ever-decreasing annual catch limits, fishermen were leaving the industry and the coastal communities that relied on groundfish landings were spiraling downward. Under status quo management in place at the time, a handful of major players bought up permits and consolidated ownership. This meant even fewer owner-operators on the water. Read More »
The deep decline in the numbers of cod and other groundfish in New England waters has created this critical need to help local fishermen and fishing communities. But any support to the fishing industry needs to be more than a simple transfer of money. We need to ensure that there are fish for the fishermen to catch in years to come.
By making smart investments now, we can do more than help fishermen through this crisis. We can take care of fundamental needs to provide assurance against potential future disasters. The op-ed outlines several steps that can be taken to ensure that these ‘disaster’ funds are utilized for the long term health and survival of NE fishermen, coastal communities and the fish that sustain them.