Selected tags: Mexico

Expedition Cuba Part 3: Collaborative Research Establishes Baseline Monitoring in Cuba

Cuban and Mexican researchers, Alejandra Briones and Ivan Mendez, look at a sample that will be analyzed in CIM’s lab to assess the faunal communities in the water column.

By: Kendra Karr and Valerie Miller

Part III of a blog series detailing a February 2013 Research Expedition in Cuba organized by EDF Oceans’ Cuba, Science, and Shark teams and funded by the Waitt Foundation. A team of scientists from Cuba, Mexico and the U.S. along with EDF staff set sail to share knowledge, scientific methodologies and to survey shark populations in Cuba. The tri-national expedition was led by Cuban scientists from University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research (CIM) and U.S. scientists from the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida.

Researchers from Cuba, Mexico and the U.S. participated in an exploratory research cruise in the Gulf of Batabanó along the Southern coast of Cuba to monitor shark populations, local faunal communities and to train fellow team members in monitoring techniques.  Leaving the port of Batabanó, the RV Felipe Poeytransected the shallow, soft-sediment habitat that comprises the majority of the Gulf.  The cruise set off for the remote and sparsely populated Isle of Youth, the largest island in the Canarreos Archipelago.  Canarreos Archipelago is home to a national park and several marine protected areas (MPAs) which contain habitats that possess ecotourism potential and provide refuge for ecologically and economically important species such as lobsters, sharks and finfish. Read More »

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Expedition Cuba Part 2: Scientists Partner with Fishermen to Explore Cuban Waters

The tuna fishing crew meets up with the research team in the Gulf of Batabanó.

By: Valerie Miller & Kendra Karr

Part II of a blog series reporting on the February 2013 Research Expedition in Cuba organized by EDF Oceans’ Cuba, Science, and Shark teams and funded by the Waitt Foundation. A team of scientists from Cuba, Mexico and the U.S. along with EDF staff set sail on an exploratory research cruise to share knowledge, scientific methodologies and to survey shark populations in Cuba. The tri-national expedition was led by Cuban scientists from University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research (CIM) and U.S. scientists from the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida.

In early February the team of researchers boarded the RV Felipe Poey and departed the south coast of Cuba for the Gulf of Batabanó.  The nine-day expedition was designed to monitor shark populations, collect baseline data on plankton and benthic communities and train scientists in data collection techniques for future monitoring.  It took the entire first day to steam to the Isle of Youth.   By the evening the smooth waters and night sky had blended into one endless black landscape. As a sense of isolation set-in, the boat turned towards some lights in the distance – which emanated from a lobster station floating in the middle of the Gulf.  After a day crossing the ocean with no land in sight, it felt strange stepping off the boat and onto the deck at the station. The lobster fishermen, friends of the Cuban scientists, showed us around the facility which stores their daily catch in pens.  This moonlight meeting was just the first of many productive interactions with fishermen throughout the journey. Read More »

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Expedition Cuba: A Tri-National Journey to Share Science and Survey Sharks, Part 1

Shark researchers from Cuba, Mexico, &  the U.S. capture a bull shark in the Gulf of Batabanó, Cuba.

Shark researchers from Cuba, Mexico, & the U.S. capture a bull shark in the Gulf of Batabanó, Cuba. (From L to R: Pedro Reyes and Alexei Ruiz of the Center for Marine Research – Cuba, Jack Morris of Mote Marine Laboratory – USA) Photo Credit: Valerie Miller

 

By: Kendra Karr & Valerie Miller

Intro by Dan Whittle: With generous support from the Waitt Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has launched a new initiative to support collaborative field research with scientists from the University of Havana's Center for Marine Research. This initiative is enabling teams of Cuban, U.S. and Mexican scientists to carry out a series of scientific expeditions to conduct important new research on Cuba's remarkable—but understudied—marine and coastal ecosystems. This effort will also support year-round port sampling of shark fishery landings at Cuban ports, contributing to EDF’s overarching tri-national shark conservation efforts throughout the Gulf of Mexico.  

On our inaugural expedition in February 2013, our tri-national team embarked on a research cruise off of Cuba's south coast in the Gulf of Batabanó to share knowledge and scientific methods, and to survey migratory shark populations. The expedition was organized by EDF Oceans’ Cuba, Science, and Shark conservation programs and led on-the-water by scientists from University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research (CIM) and from the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida; with participation by a scientist from Mexico’s College of the Southern Frontier (ECOSUR).

Results from this expedition will be highlighted in a 3 part blog series. Today’s post focuses on sharing science in data-limited shark fisheries.  It will be followed by stories about the partnership of fishermen and scientists and baseline data.  Join the journey here and follow along this week! Read More »

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EDF presents analysis of illegal fishing to the Mexican Senate

EDF was recently invited by the Fisheries Committee of the Mexican Senate to present a study on Illegal fishing in Mexico that we have developed with the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness (IMCO) and other partners. Three of the five Senators who make up the Committee were present: the Chair – Sen. Francisco Lopez Brito (PAN, Sinaloa), the Secretary – Sen. Oscar Rosas González (PRI, Campeche), and Sen. Ernesto Ruffo (PAN, BC). Also in attendance was the General Director and several staff from National Fisheries Institute of Mexico (INAPESCA), as well as representatives from fishermen´s associations from both the industrial and small-scale fleets.

This is the first time EDF attended one of the monthly public meetings of the Committee. Pedro Zapata (EDF de Mexico Director) and Rodrigo Gallegos (Director for Global Warming from IMCO) made remarks and presented key conclusions from this study, which we hope will open up a constructive dialogue on this critical and complex issue. A few of the main points presented follow: Read More »

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Revitalizing the Mexican Corvina Fishery with Sustainable Management

Corvina Fishing Boat

Mexican fishermen with a catch of Corvina. Photo Credit: Silvia Yee

For many years the short, six week commercial Corvina fishing season in the Upper Gulf of California was marked by a frenzied race to fish, with as many as 600 boats in the water at the same time. Beginning in late February, and aligned with moon cycles, this species gathers in the Colorado River delta to spawn, a yearly ritual eagerly awaited by the local fishermen. And so every year, with so much fish to be had, and so many fishermen, thousands of tons would hit the market simultaneously. This drove the price down and resulted in even more fishing effort, which would even further depress prices – to values below that of a recycled plastic bottle. It was a vicious cycle that has become all too familiar in fisheries in Latin America and around the world. Scientists have long advised that, if unchecked, this way of fishing could lead to the complete collapse of Corvina, having dire consequences for a region with very limited economic alternatives. It is estimated that Corvina represents as much as 60% of all fish sold in Mexico City during this time of year, coinciding with Lent, when seafood consumption is highest. 

Three years ago EDF, fishermen, and critical partners like Noroeste Sustentable (NOS), the Academy for Systemic Change, and the state and federal governments, set out to bring catch share management to this fishery to give fishermen and others a stake in its biological and economic success. Read More »

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Fishermen Embrace Change in the Sinaloa, Mexico Shrimp Fishery: Part III

Community-based enforcement: a positive and unexpected result of catch shares in Sinaloa.

As we mentioned in the previous two posts of this blog series the coastal shrimp fishery in Sinaloa, Mexico has been managed under a catch share program for two years now. Over 10,000 legal fishermen work in the fishery from Sinaloa, a coastal state in the northwestern part of Mexico.

One of the biggest challenges we have faced in working with the coastal shrimp fishery is the vast amount of illegal fishing activities. Nonetheless, through great efforts by the Mexican federal government, fishermen and NGOs, we have achieved great milestones in this project including the first science-based estimation of a total allowable catch for shrimp by Inapesca (the Mexican Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Institute), the allocation of catch shares to 140 cooperatives, and the unprecedented financial support of the Mexican government to hire a third-party firm to monitor landings.

Figure 1: Location of the two lagoon systems under a community-based surveillance and enforcement system.

Figure 1: Location of the two lagoon systems under a community-based surveillance and enforcement system.

Still, there is plenty of road to travel in this process of implementation to get the system to function properly and produce the biological, economic and social benefits possible with catch shares. Surveillance and enforcement have become an important issue. There are not enough government inspectors to ensure compliance with rules and regulations, so our team has worked with fishing communities to design and assist in setting up a community-based monitoring and enforcement system.

At the beginning of this year, we helped organize cooperative meetings in two of the largest lagoon systems in Sinaloa: Altata-Ensenada Pabellones and Santa María-La Reforma (see Figure 1). The overarching goal of these meetings was to get community members together so they could come up with a system that included: codes of conduct that promote sustainable fishing practices, designate community inspectors (which would ensure compliance with these codes) and a “Surveillance and Enforcement Committee” in each lagoon system.

The community-based enforcement initiative works like this: the agreed upon codes of conduct are communicated to all participants via coop leaders, large signs, and portable plastic cards that fishermen are to carry on board their skiff. If any member of the community identifies somebody breaking any of the rules stipulated in the codes of conduct, that person has two options, either to call a 1-800 government phone number and place an anonymous report, or to call a community inspector who will place the report for them. These numbers are printed on the signs and the plastic cards. When the report is done by the community inspector, the Surveillance and Enforcement Committee has the obligation of reporting the government and follow up.

Figure 2: How the system works from bottom-up to top-down.

Figure 2: How the system works from bottom-up to top-down.

Conapesca, the Mexican Fisheries Management Authority, has approved and supported this co-management scheme by providing a substantial amount of financial resources to implement it and is considering how it could be facilitated in other fisheries in Mexico.

The potential benefits of this system are considerable given the astounding number of fishermen involved in this fishery.  We will begin evaluation as soon as preliminary results are available to measure the success of this initiative. One of the most important lessons we have learned is that with a fishing community this large, it is best if the users themselves lay out the rules so they have an incentive to comply with them.

Sometimes, our most important job is to simply create the conditions for success, and the rest will fall into place.

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Joint U.S.-Cuba-Mexico shark catch share gaining media interest

This weekend Reuters wrote a story about two EDF staff members’ recent trip to Cuba. Last week Dan Whittle, Pamela Baker and U.S. scientists visited with Cuban officials to discuss collaboration between the U.S., Cuba and Mexico to better protect the Gulf of Mexico’s struggling shark population. EDF and Mote Marine Laboratory are promoting improved management for sharks, including exploration of catch share management systems increasingly used to meet the conservation and economic objectives in diverse parts of the world.

Shark populations have been troubled for years, primarily due to overfishing, in part resulting from China’s high demand for shark fin soup. Sharks are “highly migratory,” meaning they travel throughout the Gulf and beyond, not just in U.S. waters.

For Gulf sharks — and the benefits they provide to local communities — to be sustained over the long-term, a cooperative effort between the three countries that fish in Gulf waters is key. Catch shares can offer advantages over conventional regulations by creating incentives for fishermen to focus on a steady and high quality catch over higher volume, often lower quality harvests. Important political and other challenges exist, but the potential benefits of cooperation make the effort worthwhile.  Management programs should be designed to achieve the conservation, economic and social objectives of the three countries.

Read the full story.

At the end of September, EDF will be participating in a tri-national workshop with U.S., Cuban and Mexican scientists to finalize a long-term marine research and conservation plan for the Gulf of Mexico at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. Sharks will be discussed as one of six working groups focused on priority resources in the Gulf of Mexico. More information will be posted on EDFish as the event approaches.

Read more about our work in Cuba or about shark populations in the Gulf.

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Fishermen Embrace Change in the Sinaloa, Mexico Shrimp Fishery: Part II

The fisherman’s story of frustration with compliance issues under the Sinaloa Shrimp fishery catch share was what I and two of my colleagues continuously heard during our outreach trip in Mexico in July.  After spending a month in fishing camps along the Sinaloa coast giving presentations on catch shares and facilitating other exercises to communicate and dissect the issues of fishery management, we believe the fishermen we reached now understand that achieving success through catch share management will take efforts from all the stakeholders: NGOs, government, and most importantly the fishermen themselves. 

Although it is easy to become frustrated with the challenges of implementing a new fishery management program, we stressed that real lasting change will take time and that our workshops aimed to empower fishermen to begin solving their own problems with compliance. 
 
One thing that has always interested us is what type of management fishermen would implement if they could choose.  To find this out, we played a “fishing game” with three rounds that mimic the problems in the fishery for both the fishermen and the authorities, while inviting fishermen to solve these issues using their own knowledge.

The first round represents the race to fish; the second round a command and control management, and in the third round the fishermen themselves are allowed to make up their own rules.  In many cases the third round resulted in some form of catch shares.  In response, we communicated that although the realities fishermen face are bleak, without their participation and compliance we will never see the third round in reality.

Implementing catch shares in Mexico has many challenges, and illegal fishing is one main roadblock.  In 2009, a historic year for fisheries in Mexico, a TAC was set and shares were allocated for the artisanal blue shrimp fishery.  NGOs and government were working together to improve fishery management, something rare in any country.  

Though in a land where the laws are written well but commonly disobeyed, it has become clear that with catch shares the story is no different.  For this reason it has been of utmost importance for us to maintain contact with the fishermen and continue our presence on the ground.  Adaptive management and design continues to be our motto as we work with fishermen to implement innovative solutions and design to confront these challenges.

During our trip, I was a proud catch share cheerleader, and for this shrimp season in Sinaloa we have restored the faith in many fishermen that catch shares equals change.   Now we must continue to work with fishermen to help design solutions that will turn theory into practice and implement innovative enforcement programs, which will reward those who are part of a catch share and gather their support as advocates and better stewards of their resource.

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