Fishing boats in Chatham, MA. Photo: Tim Connor
What every fishing port in New England has long feared has now come true: the iconic cod fish is disappearing in our waters. If our shared goal is to rebuild a sustainable fishery for years to come, then we need to better understand what is happening to the fish stocks. This calls for better science, which has been the subject of discussion for years.
A key foundation of better science is better catch monitoring. Inadequate catch data is the Achilles heel of the groundfish fishery in New England – particularly with cod – and the only way to improve this in a cost-effective way is through a comprehensive monitoring system that uses video technology. Read More
Fishing boats in Chatham, MA. Photo credit: Tim Connor, EDF
It’s time to face the fact that the cod fishery in New England is on the verge of collapse. The problem has been a long time coming. Decades of heavy fishing pressure, federal subsidies, counterproductive political intervention, unpredictable science, inadequate catch data and now climate change, have brought the iconic cod fishery to its knees.
The calls for a closure are increasing and it’s getting harder to justify opposition to such a move.
Some would say this centuries old fishery, a staple of New England, needs a miracle. But what it really needs is leadership. Now is the time for our leaders to step up and make hard choices. Are we going to let New England’s cod become a relic? Or are we going to reverse the tide and do everything necessary to bring this important fishery back from the brink? Read More
In previous fishery monitoring posts we explored a variety of obstacles to collecting accurate and timely data from vessels in the Chesapeake Bay, West Coast and New England fisheries. These fisheries don’t just have monitoring challenges in common. They also share a solution: each region is piloting an electronic monitoring (EM) or electronic reporting (ER) system intended to make data collection more comprehensive, flexible and affordable. These are not the only regions exploring how new technologies can be integrated into fishery monitoring plans. In fact, all eight of the U.S. fishery management regions have, or are currently testing EM or ER tools.
In 2013, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation awarded a Fisheries Innovation Grant to Dorothy Lowman to convene a National Electronic Monitoring Workshop. Lowman is a natural resource consultant and Chair of the Pacific Fishery Management Council. EDF cosponsored the workshop, viewing it as a linchpin in bringing fishery leaders together to identify common challenges, and common solutions, to monitoring—one of the most important elements of fisheries management. The workshop facilitated information exchange across regions and helped address outstanding challenges in implementing cost-effective monitoring systems. After more than seven months of planning by a Steering Committee that included fishing industry, managers, monitoring companies and EDF, the National EM Workshop was held January 8th and 9th in Seattle, Washington. More than 150 fishery managers and stakeholders from across the country attended the workshop along with select representatives from Canada, Denmark and Australia. Read More
Successful fisheries management is dependent upon timely data collection and analysis. A robust monitoring program will provide data on catch, specify gear use and evaluate bycatch for fishery stakeholders and managers, which in turn, support and improve stock assessments and ensure catch limits are both optimized and sustainable in the long-term. Monitoring is a necessary component of accurate catch accounting, yet comes with costs which can be a barrier to implementation. EDF is working to establish cost-effective monitoring programs in the United States, using a multifaceted approach including electronic monitoring, electronic reporting, on-board observers, logbooks, dockside catch accounting and other tools. The Fisheries Monitoring Roadmap is a guide developed by a working group of fisheries stakeholders facilitated by EDF to help realize this goal.
As fishery managers and other stakeholders look to new and emerging technologies to meet fishery monitoring and data needs, it is important to recognize that incorporating EM into a fishery monitoring program is a multi-step process that must be tailored to the specific needs of the fishery, fleet and often individual vessels. The Fishery Monitoring Roadmap outlines the differences between monitoring tools, and matches them with clearly identified management and monitoring goals, ultimately allowing for the optimization of fishery monitoring programs.
The “Roadmap” is essentially a multi-stage, ‘how-to’ manual for developing or revising a fishery monitoring program. Additionally, the Roadmap provides anecdotes and case studies highlighting trade-offs that must be considered when selecting among various fishery monitoring tools. In order to provide the context, background and resources stakeholders may need, the Roadmap includes the following five complementary sections: Read More
The Pacific Fishery Management Council took a significant step last week when they voted for the first time to move forward with a formal process to scope, set performance standards and eventually implement electronic monitoring for the West Coast Groundfish Individual Fishing Quota (catch share) fishery. Why is that important?
The West Coast catch share program is now in its third year of operation, and one of its chief characteristics is that it is “100% Federally Monitored – No Overfishing Guaranteed.” An authorized third-party observer who tracks the catch and ensures that all fish are accounted for accompanies each groundfish trip. West Coast fishermen are committed to the full accountability provided by observers, but they are struggling under the added costs that the federal monitoring requirement places on them. Electronic monitoring is seen as a way to save on costs, increase fishermen’s ability to time their trips to weather conditions and market opportunities, and improve safety.
That’s why EDF has been working with fishery managers, fishery enforcement personnel and NMFS to encourage development of cost-effective ways to gradually replace human observers with onboard cameras and supporting software systems. Last week’s Council vote was a milestone, and EDF joins with West Coast fishermen in thanking Council members for taking this well-considered and vital step.
Recently a US Senate subcommittee held a hearing entitled “Developments and Opportunities in US Fisheries Management,” with testimony by federal, regional and state officials that focused on the need for collaboration in fisheries management and decision-making based on sound science. More than two and a half hours of testimony and questioning by Senators focused on the role of science and the Magnuson Stevens Act in effective management of our nation’s fisheries, especially summer flounder or “fluke.”
New York and New Jersey have long been embroiled in an interstate conflict over what New York Senator Chuck Schumer has called “our decades long fight to bring fairness, flexibility, and accountability into the management of summer flounder.” To that point, a reoccurring theme in the testimony was that effective fisheries management requires high quality data and regular stock assessments. This notion was also echoed at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing a week earlier.
What is clear in the early hours of debating MSA’s reauthorization is that stakeholders across the board are focused on a common top priority – simply, good science is fundamental to good management. This reality is at the core of the interstate summer flounder battle, with NY arguing that the use of outdated data has led to an unequal allocation of fish between states. Read More