Reprinted with permission from SeafoodNews.com
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [seafoodnews.com] Jan 12, 2012 By Kate Bonzon
The following article was written by Kate Bonzon, who works for EDF and was one of the authors of a new scientific paper published in Marine Policy that analyzed the performance of 15 catch share programs in the US and Canada. She argues the data shows these programs met most of their goals, especially in the area of conservation, reduced discards, and increased revenue to harvesters. There was a shift in jobs from a larger number of part time jobs to a smaller number of full time jobs, which had varying social impacts depending on the fishery.
America's fisheries, and the fishing communities they support, have struggled for decades to find a way to both rebuild depleted fish stocks and allow fishermen to earn a decent living. But it has become increasingly evident over the years that traditional management practices – such as drastically curtailing the fishing season – were failing to achieve either of these goals: fleets shrunk, revenues dropped, fishermen were often forced to put out to sea in bad weather, and the industry grew highly unstable. Fish stocks, meanwhile, continued to decline.
The latest effort to achieve that balance – a management approach known as “catch shares,” has generated much discussion among fisheries stakeholders over whether this approach is any better or worse than previous efforts. Now, a recent analysis of 15 fisheries in the United States and British Columbia published in the journal Marine Policy, provides data that clearly show significant environmental and economic improvements in fisheries that have made the transition to catch shares, an approach that allocates fishermen a share of the total allowable catch in exchange for making them accountable for staying within the catch limit.
Discards declined substantially with catch share fisheries.
Today, the Obama Administration announced plans to consolidate parts of the federal government, which may include moving the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the Department of Interior. With responsibility for managing the largest sovereign ocean territory in the world, NOAA is a critically important agency. When considering moving NOAA to the U.S. Department of Interior, policy-makers should ensure that the agency’s mission-critical functions, including management of the nation’s fish stocks, are protected and strengthened.
Such a reorganization could have huge implications for the people who work hard at sea catching the fish we like to eat. I hope we can have a vigorous debate that looks carefully at the costs and benefits of any plan to move NOAA to Interior and make sure that the public, the nation’s fishermen, and the nation’s fish resources would truly benefit from it.
Can a Change in Management Solve the World’s Most Pressing Marine Conservation Challenge and Foster Vibrant Coastal Communities? A new study published in the journal Marine Policy finds that reforming how fisheries are managed can successfully restore and maintain healthy fish populations and benefit both fishermen and fishing-dependent communities. The study evaluated 15 fisheries in the U.S. and British Columbia before and after adopting "catch shares” — a type of fishery management increasingly common worldwide.
Catch shares, the study found, delivers “clear gains in environmental performance (and) major economic improvements” as well as dramatic improvements in safety for fishermen. The improvements were found across a range of fisheries in the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and extended to fishermen from both small and large vessels, using a diversity of gears and targeting a variety of fish. In contrast, the study found that these same fisheries performed poorly under traditional fishery management in virtually all areas.
Overall, the study is a dose of good news at a time when most news we hear about oceans is bad. The results also come at a time when some in Congress are pushing to eliminate fishermen’s ability to pursue catch shares for their fisheries. The findings point to a clear choice about which strategy the nation should pursue to achieve abundant oceans that also allow fishermen and fishing-dependent communities to prosper. Read More
A year ago this week, West Coast trawlers who fish for over 90 species of groundfish – including cod, sole and rockfish – started operating under a catch share management system. The shift for the $40 million-a-year fishery has been called the biggest change in commercial fishing regulations on the West Coast in 50 years.
So far, results have been impressive, particularly a near end to wasteful, so -called “regulatory discards” – fish that traditional regulations required fishermen to toss overboard, often dead.
Fisherman Geoff Bettencourt from Half Moon Bay, California reflected in an opinion piece in the San Jose Mercury News: “Under the old system, fishermen had little or no incentive to avoid overfished species or to behave like the natural conservationists that we are… As someone who remembers 2000, when the West Coast groundfish fishery was formally declared a disaster, I'm feeling better than I have in a long time about its future.” Read More
Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper
NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service recently released the Gulf of Mexico 2010 Red Snapper Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Annual Report, and it provides a wealth of data and information collected during the fourth year of the IFQ program. The report comes as the 5-year review of the IFQ is underway, and offers us a chance to use the latest data to evaluate the success of the program.
By all counts, the IFQ has been a success. Back in 2006 when the Gulf Council was considering various management options in the red snapper fishery, fishermen had a short season each year, and had to go out even in dangerous conditions. The markets were flooded with fish for a short period of the year (and fishermen got low prices for their fish), and since the fishermen couldn't decide when, where, or how to fish, they had excessive bycatch of red snapper and everything else. And to top it all off, they ended up going over quota anyway.
Then in 2007, the IFQ brought in a new way of doing things. After getting approved overwhelmingly by local fishermen in not one but two referendums, the IFQ brought flexibility and stability to the fishing industry. Fishing days increased from an average of 77 days before catch shares to 365 days a year. Catch shares improved the stability of fishing employment; they allowed vessel owners the opportunity to provide full time jobs to qualified captains and deckhands, without the variability that results from short seasons. In contrast, recreational fishermen only had 53 days to fish for red snapper (not including lost days due to the oil spill) under traditional management in 2010, and only 48 days in 2011. Read More
On November 28th, the New York Times published an article about some of the powerful changes underway in the Pacific groundfish fishery.
With the first year of that fishery's new catch share program coming to a close in January, early results are impressive: wasted bycatch has dropped from approximately 20 percent of overall catch to an astonishing one percent, and fishermen are fundamentally changing how, when and where they fish.
The West Coast catch share program holds fishermen individually accountable to an annual quota for each species and requires them to stop fishing when they reach their limits. This new accountability is driving an innovation boom in the fishery. Fishermen are developing entirely new approaches to avoiding over-fished species, while catching their more plentiful target stocks.
One example of such innovation is the "risk pool" approach mentioned in the New York Times article, which was developed on the West Coast by fishermen working closely with the Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy. In risk pool arrangements a group of fishermen agree to put their over-fished species quota into a common pool based on an understanding that they will have access to the quota pool to cover any unexpected catch of those species. To ensure the group stays within its overall allotment, participating fishermen establish where, when and how they will fish in order to avoid over-fished stocks. This kind of cooperation is almost unheard of in non-catch share fisheries where competition – not communication – is the rule. Read More
Marking a major shift in the public debate over the groundfish fishery in New England, 108 fishermen from the five coastal New England states — representing all sizes of operations and 178 boats — have submitted a letter to their Members of Congress saying that a vocal minority in the industry has for too long dominated the debate over Sector management. This letter says that, in fact, there are many fishermen that want their members of Congress to support stability, profitability and flexibility for their fishery, rather than a return to the “chaos” of the previous management approach.
“A few voices calling for the overturn of the entire Sector system have been amplified in the media, and we understand that our elected officials are trying to respond to their constituents’ concerns,” the groups wrote in a letter addressed to “New England’s Senators and Congressmen.”
“Unfortunately,” the letter states, this has led to a series of increasingly dangerous proposals that truly put the future of our businesses and fisheries at risk. Perhaps too many of us in the active industry have been too busy making the new system work to consistently weigh in. This letter is our attempt to rectify that situation.”
The letter was signed by 108 fishermen affiliated with the Associated Fisheries of Maine; Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association; Midcoast Fishermen’s Association; Northeast Seafood Coalition; and Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association. Read More