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Selected tag(s): New England

One Year of Sector Management in New England Fisheries

Emilie Litsinger, EDF Oceans NE Groundfish Project Manager

Emilie Litsinger, EDF Oceans NE Groundfish Project Manager

A report by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released Wednesday highlights results of the first year of the groundfish sector management program in New England. The dramatic management shift appears to be helping the fishery turn the corner to a more economically and environmentally sustainable fishery.

With the first full year of operation under sectors now complete, results of the program’s performance are encouraging. Sector fishermen stayed within their allowed catch levels, groundfish revenues were essentially stable, overall revenues were up, fishermen received higher prices for fish, and  the amount of wasted fish dumped overboard was substantially reduced.

The report highlights a number of continuing trends. For example, the number of active groundfish vessels has been declining for over a decade.  The eight percent decline in the 2010 fishing year was similar to the decline from 2007 to 2009. Read More »

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New England Catch Share Fishermen Serving Up Fresh, Traceable Fish Directly to Restaurants

Stuffed Flounder © 2010 Eliza Adam

A group of fishermen in Rhode Island who helped establish the groundfish and fluke catch share fishery management programs are now able to go back to the days when fishermen sold their fish directly to restaurants versus solely through wholesalers.  Selling directly increases the prices fishermen can get for their catch and also means customers are eating the freshest fish.

Chef John Vestal from New Rivers in Providence, Rhode Island who is a customer of the new fishermen’s distribution company Wild Rhody told The New York Times, “I have been buying all the seafood for the restaurant for over a decade, and what I saw amazed me. The fish was the absolutely most beautiful, fresh, cleanest seafood I had ever seen.”

In a recent article in The Providence Journal, fisherman Chris Brown described why it was difficult to sell directly under the old fishing derby system before the switch to catch shares: “’Used to be, years ago, they would say, ‘the season is open, go,’ Brown said. ‘There was a race to fish. We wouldn’t have been able to do something like this. Now we can fish to the prompts of the market.’” Read More »

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New Report Provides A Roadmap for Improving Fisheries Management in New England

As the New England Fishery Management Council completes its spring meeting today, Council members, staff and other stakeholders will head back to their homes and offices thinking about implementation of the various decisions made during the three-day meeting.

Thanks to a new report released during the Council meeting, the fisheries community in New England will also be thinking about broader steps needed to improve the overall effectiveness of our fisheries management system. The study behind the report was led by Preston Pate, a former member of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and former Director of the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, who presented its findings to the Council alongside Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, Eric Schwaab.

A review of the management system was requested by Council chair John Pappalardo, a Chatham fisherman and CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association, and subsequently initiated by NMFS. Strong support for both the spirit and recommendations of the report was expressed by Mr. Pappalardo and the Council, as well as Mr. Schwaab and NOAA Fisheries.

Media outlets across New England quickly covered the findings and recommendations in the report, with clear and perhaps unsurprising emphasis on the negative outcomes. And that emphasis is warranted, for although the report notes a considerable number of positive attributes of the region’s management system, the effectiveness of those elements is compromised by the negatives.

But let’s pause and take pride in what is working well in New England, and then get down to business of fixing what is not working well.

In fact, several of the positives identified in the report represent steps already underway toward rectifying the negatives. For example, the important role that managers of the 17 groundfish harvest cooperatives, i.e., “sectors”, are playing in improving collaboration and communication with management was highlighted as an encouraging recent development. This is a development that is making progress toward rectifying one of the major areas needing improvement within NMFS: better outreach and communication with industry. We should think creatively about how to make sector managers more effective in filling that role, and support them in doing so.

The report also identified cooperative research as a positive attribute of the regional management system that provides important information for management, and improves relationships among industry members, scientists and managers. Therefore, increasing cooperative research opportunities is another important strategy for improving the communication and trust deficiencies identified in the report.

The report also highlighted two challenges faced by fisheries management in New England more so than any region in the U.S.: Geography and history. The area under the jurisdiction of the New England Council has relatively high population density, and consequently high anthropogenic impacts, in the coastal region. Also, although the region is comparatively small, it includes four coastal states, so that the number of political and regulatory jurisdictions involved are relatively high compared to other regions.

Our history not only makes successful fisheries management in New England more challenging, but in some ways more important. The fishing traditions in New England are key components of our regional identity and our national heritage. Successes in the region are therefore especially symbolic nationally, and following the roadmap requested by Mr. Pappalardo, made possible by Mr. Schwaab, and delivered by Mr. Pate can help ensure greater success toward recovering and strengthening our invaluable fishing heritage moving forward.

Jake Kritzer is EDF’s Senior Marine Scientist for the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions.  He is also Vice-Chair of the New England Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee, among other advisory appointments.

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New England Groundfish Fishermen Should Benefit from Unused Quota

With the support of Senator John Kerry, Congressman Bill Keating, and Congressman Barney Frank, New England groundfish fishermen are asking if they can “carry over” a portion of unused catch for the upcoming fishing year.  EDF thinks this makes sense and will work with NMFS and the New England Fishery Management Council to support putting this into place.

Carry-over is generally allowed under catch share programs for two reasons.  First, catch limits in later years are often set assuming a certain level of catch in earlier years.  If the actual catch is less than the maximum allowed in a given year, that typically will result in a higher level of sustainable yield the following year.  Second, allowing carry-over prevents a rush by fishermen to meet their quota limits at the end of the season.  Such a rush could disrupt all the benefits catch shares can deliver with respect to careful and selective fishing practices that minimize bycatch and habitat impacts, and strategic choices of when and where to fish in response to weather conditions, market demand, and other factors.

Harvested catch in first 94% of 2010 fishing year (all sectors) vs. Allowed catch for entire 2010 fishing year (all sectors)In this first year of the New England groundfish sector program, like the first year of many new management programs, fishermen undoubtedly were cautious as they figured out how best to fish their quota.  It makes sense to let fishermen benefit from the conservative harvest seen in the first year of sectors.

Sector fishermen are already allowed to carryover up to 10% of any unused quota.  It is clear from looking at the amount of unused quota (see chart below) that the catch of many stocks will be more than 10% below the science-based catch limits set to guard against overfishing.  Rather than simply forgo the socio-economic benefits to be gained from at least some of the unused quota, we hope fishery managers can allow fishermen to reap some of the rewards of their conservative fishing this year.

Support seems to be steadily building towards having NMFS and the New England Fishery Management Council take active steps to decide what amount of additional unused quota can safely be carried over for the species that were underfished in 2010.  The appropriate percentage levels should be based on the biology of each species, so that we don’t set the fishery back by jeopardizing rebuilding of overfished stocks and compromising the productivity of rebuilt stocks.  However, it is unlikely that all of the unused quota should be carried over.  After all, natural mortality continues to act upon the stock, and will remove some of the fish that would have been harvested had the full quota been fished.  A scientific analysis can determine how much of the fishing year 2010 quota is likely to still be available to the fleet in fishing year 2011.

Taken together, this measure, as well as the increased ACLs for many groundfish stocks next year and fishermen’s continually improving ability to navigate the sector program, should lead to increased yields and revenues across the fleet, and a more economically and environmentally stable fishery in 2011.

Jake Kritzer is EDF’s Senior Marine Scientist for the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions.  He is also Vice-Chair of the New England Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee, among other advisory appointments.

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Catch Share Conversations: The Atlantic Red Crab Fishery

Red crabs in crates

Red crab.

My last post on EDFish described a day I spent in the tidal creeks of South Carolina fishing for blue crabs with local waterman Fred Dockery.  Today, I’d like to share some valuable insights gleaned from a very different crab fishery.

The deep-sea Atlantic red crab fishery had long escaped the attention of many stakeholders in New England owing to its comparatively small fleet and modest landings relative to larger scale cousins like the sea scallop, groundfish and lobster fisheries. Indeed, the fishery did not even have a management plan until 2002. However, last fall, red crab assumed an unexpected level of attention in response to advice on acceptable biological catch (ABC) from the New England Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC, on which I sit) that many deemed to be too low and likely to impose excessive socio-economic hardships. 

Fortunately, the months since the September 2009 Council meeting where the SSC first delivered its red crab ABC saw scientists, managers and the industry take the steps needed to generate better catch advice. Efforts made to generate better catch advice were consistent with sound scientific and fishery management process, thus turning a tense controversy into a valuable example of how to do things better. 

Industry and SSC members worked directly with the red crab Plan Development Team to expand and clarify the science underpinning the ABC.  Also, fellow committee member Dr. Dan Georgianna and I visited the red crab unloading and processing facility in New Bedford just before the March 2010 SSC meeting at which we revisited the red crab ABC.  Our visit aimed to help us learn more about the fishery and its operations to better inform our advice to the Council on both immediate issues and others that might arise down the track, and to help the industry better understand SSC operations and rationale.  The result of those scientific and outreach efforts was an improved analysis and better understanding that gave the SSC more confidence in setting a higher catch limit for 2010 and beyond.

Beyond its constructive participation in the management process, the red crab fishery illustrates the value of cooperative research and innovative business planning in building a more robust and sustainable business model, one that could be enhanced by conversion to catch shares.  We discuss the red crab fishery and its future potential in more detail in the newest edition of CSC – Red Crab Dec 2010 from the EDF Catch Share Design Center.

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NMFS, NOAA & NE Fishery Management Council Work Together to Address Initial Hurdles of Groundfish Sectors

Julie Wormser, New England & Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.

Julie Wormser, New England & Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.

Sector management has been in place in the New England fishery now for several months, and while there are still some issues to be worked out, preliminary data show some positive results. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), fishing industry and the New England Fishery Management Council are all working together to address some of the initial hurdles and to help sectors operate more smoothly.

For starters, on Thursday the Council unanimously agreed to establish accumulation limits for the groundfish fishery. Once the cap is in place, this will benefit small boats and fishing communities because there will no longer be excess accumulation by a small group of individuals. This will make it easier for small boats to continue to fish profitably.

As reported at the Council meeting, the first three months of sector operations resulted in (May 1 – August 15): 

  • Fishermen earning more money for less fishing under the new system. In 2010, landings are down compared to 2009. Only 85.8 percent of total landings last year were landed this year (for the same period of time). Meanwhile, revenues are up 112.4 percent.
  • Sector fishermen are avoiding weak stocks and targeting robust stocks. The ratio of Georges Bank cod to Georges Bank haddock (in metric tons) in 2009 was 1121:1532. In 2010, it was 743:2768.
  • Landings of Gulf of Maine winter flounder, a stock at very low abundance, are being effectively avoided under sectors. In 2009, 66 metric tons were landed. In 2010, 32 metric tons were landed.

Other developments include:

  • Sectors are more effective than the old days-at-sea policy and more people are getting out of the common pool and into sectors as a result. NMFS announced this week that 822 permits have enrolled in sectors for 2011, an 8 percent increase from this year, representing 98 percent of annual catch limits.
  • Responding to industry requests, NMFS/NOAA committed at the Sept. 9 groundfish committee meeting to immediately improve the weekly information flow between the agency and sector managers.
  • Earlier this week, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Eric Schwaab announced plans to conduct a regional audit of the fishery management process in New England, to help improve relationships between key stakeholders and to help sectors operate more smoothly.
  • Also this week, Commerce Secretary Locke announced that $3 million in federal grants would be made available for cooperative research that will help fishermen develop new equipment to prevent bycatch in the New England region.
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