Selected tags: NMFS

Sharing the catch means more for everyone

It may seem counter-intuitive that sharing the catch yields more fish and economic benefits for fishermen and coastal communities, but that is exactly what catch shares are proven to do.

NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) recently released its first national report assessing the economic performance of catch share programs in the United States. This report further validates the findings outlined in a 2011 Marine Policy Paper,  “Assessing Catch Shares’ effects evidence from Federal United States and associated British Columbian Fisheries (Grimm et. al),  which examined 15 catch share programs in the U.S and British Columbia before and after catch share implementation.

While these two studies differ slightly in selected fisheries, variables and time frame, they both conclude that catch shares consistently outperform conventional management systems across the board. Graduating to catch shares yields a robust return on investment: longer seasons, fewer risks, higher revenues, less waste and more full time jobs. An overview of the findings from Grimm et al. is presented in the table below.

[Chart summarizing catch share benefits. Data adapted from Grimm et.al ]

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Letter: Fishing Regulations Shouldn’t Imperil Safety

USCG Boat, Oregon

photo credit: Tidewater Muse via photopin cc

Regulations to restock fisheries and keep fishermen safe ought to go hand in hand. Unfortunately, in an effort to control how many fish are caught, regulators frequently impose rules that end up putting fishermen in harm’s way. For instance, if fishermen are limited to a set number of days on the water, there is pressure to go out and stay out, no matter the weather conditions.   This time constraint also makes it less likely that captains and crew will take safety precautions and get enough rest.

EDF Oceans has joined safety advocates and families of commercial fishermen who have lost their lives at sea in signing a letter urging the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to ensure that rules to control overfishing do not result in unsafe conditions for fishermen.

The letter, signed by members of the Safe at Sea Network, as well as other fishing safety advocates, says, “When it comes to fishing safety, management plans should ‘first do no harm.’” Read More »

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Maintaining fishery accountability while reducing costs for fishermen

No Overfishing Guaranteed LabelThe 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.

 

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New England Catch Shares Ruled Legitimate by 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals

1st Circuit Court of Appeals logoIn a long-awaited decision, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a 2011 lower court ruling confirming the legality of the NE sector program.

Ruling on a suit brought by the ports of New Bedford and Gloucester, as well as fishermen and fishing groups, the justices determined that the NE sector program form of catch share complies with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

The court found that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had adequately considered the impact of the program and taken the proper steps to accomplish its goals, including environmental conservation, increasing economic benefits and holding fishermen accountable for staying within catch limits.

The three judge panel noted that, rather than destroying smaller business, many believe the new rules provide better protection. The judges also said federal regulators installed the law properly. "The Secretary (of Commerce's) judgments here were derived from the record, rational, and not based on any error of law," the court wrote. Read the full opinion here.

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New Report: Gulf Red Snapper Catch Share Meeting Objectives

The Gulf of Mexico red snapper individual fishing quota (IFQ) program – one type of catch share – is again earning high marks for its conservation and economic benefits.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has published three annual updates of the program, with the latest concluding that the red snapper IFQ is meeting its main objectives. A recent stock assessment also concluded that long-standing “overfishing” of red snapper is finally ending.

Tangible Conservation, Economic Progress

  • Commercial overfishing is reversed and catch limits are climbing.
    After recent deep cuts in catch, commercial fishermen were rewarded this year with a more than 30 percent increase in catch in response to the positive stock assessment results and effective management.
  • Far fewer dead fish are thrown overboard.  
    Scientific analyses conclude that 70 percent fewer fish are being thrown overboard under IFQs across the Gulf. The latest report highlights that in Texas and Louisiana, which accounted for over half of the ’09 landings, fishermen discarded just one fish for every 15 they kept.  This is a huge improvement over pre-IFQ management when, gulf-wide, fishermen threw back about one fish for every one kept.
  • Fishermen are leaving more fish in the water to reproduce.
    Not only are fewer fish thrown overboard, fishermen have left about three percent of their quota in the water for the past three years.
  • Businesses have an opportunity to turn a profit. 
    With year-round fishing and stability, fishermen bring high quality fish to the dock when consumer demand is high. Fishermen now have flexibility to tailor the catch to market needs and organize fishing trips to minimize costs.  Fishermen say their costs have dropped by 50 percent or more and data show they are earning 25 percent more for their fish at the dock.
  • The value of the fishery is rising. 
    The rising value of the privilege to catch red snapper represents growing benefits to Gulf communities and reflects optimism for a healthy fishery, stable management, and a commitment to conservation.  

Opportunities for Improvement in the 5-year Review

With 2011 around the corner, a milestone for IFQ program is approaching: The start of a 5-year mandatory performance evaluation.

All federal catch share programs are reviewed at the 5-year point to evaluate progress toward goals and identify needed improvements. This is also an opportunity highlight the region’s most significant management successes – and national model – and to fine-tune the plan and ensure on-going benefits to the fishery, industry and communities.

One thing is clear going into the review: the IFQ program is working and should be continued. Additionally, there are two key areas in which the program can be improved:

  • Continue to improve enforcement and monitoring
    • Ensure standardized, accurate reporting of ex-vessel prices by fish dealers.  This is important in part for collection of cost recovery fees.
    • Improve the online IFQ reporting system so that it reconciles with other landing records data.
    • Ensure compliance with the six percent cap on holding IFQ shares.
  • Reduce red snapper discarding even more
    • Eliminate the minimum size limit to reduce size-related discards.
    • Better integrate eastern Gulf fishermen into the IFQ program (This region received little initial allocation of shares because red snapper had been fished out of the area until recently).
    • Create a full-retention fishery where all fish caught are counted toward each fisherman’s quota, and tracked by camera, to eliminate all waste that lessen the value and recovery of the fishery.

A Successful Model for Struggling Fisheries

The red snapper IFQ has already served as a model for Gulf commercial fishermen who voted to add 20 grouper and tilefish species into the IFQ program in 2010. Conservation and economic benefits will further improve if all commercial reef fish are incorporated into the program.

Regulators and commercial fishermen who target highly migratory species, like sharks, are also considering how catch shares might help them improve fishing, reduce wasteful discards, and boost profits.  Finally, catch shares could also be applied to struggling Gulf charter operators to give these fishermen an opportunity to plan their businesses and far better meet the needs of their angler clients.

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NOAA’s New National Catch Shares Program: An investment that makes (dollars and) cents

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans Program - National Policy Director

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans National Policy Director.

Yesterday NOAA released its budget request to Congress for Fiscal Year 2011.  While the National Marine Fisheries Service budget request was decreased by 1.5%, it included a key feature: the creation of a new National Catch Shares Program, which would provide significant resources—over $50M—to those fisheries wanting to transition to catch shares. 

This federal investment comes at the right time because under conventional management fishermen struggle to make ends meet and fish stocks continue to decline.  Well-designed catch shares, on the other hand, can end overfishing while increasing fishermen’s profitability and wages and decreasing government costs.  NOAA’s announcement is a welcome shift in fisheries policy that will quickly accrue benefits to fishermen, fish populations, and the federal budget’s bottom line.
 
Fishermen are increasingly embracing catch shares because they boost profitability, wages, and safety. Catch shares enhance fishery economics with optimized catch limits (as overfished stocks recover and science improves), increased efficiency of fishing operations, and higher dock-side prices.  On average, fisheries in North America have realized an 80% increase in revenues five years after catch share implementation. In contrast, for many prized species the alternative to catch shares is closures, which will push fishermen off the water and have a devastating economic impact on coastal communities. 

As fisheries grow economically, catch shares can transition management costs to fishermen, reducing and stabilizing the overall federal investment needed to support fishing jobs.  For example, fishermen are required to recover 100% of program costs in the Alaska crab catch share.  That catch share has increased the overall value of the fishery because populations are recovering (so catch limits are increasing), and dock-side values have increased.  The economic increase has resulted in a surplus for management costs in 2009.
 
At the same time, as fisheries stabilize under catch shares, the federal government’s costs for disaster relief could substantially be reduced, which has averaged some $70 million annually over the past decade (not including salmon).
NOAA should be applauded for charting a new course and making an investment today in the solution that will help fishermen, fish populations, and the federal treasury recover. 
 
Now we need Congress to support NOAA’s budget request.

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New Red Snapper IFQ Report Raises Hope for Other Troubled Fisheries

Pam Baker, EDF Sr. Policy Advisor for the Gulf of Mexico region

No matter how many scientific studies emerge confirming the benefits of catch shares, you always have opponents who say catch shares may work in “theory,” but still have doubts about their real-life application.

However, it’s hard to refute on-the-ground, tangible results, like those shown down in the Gulf of Mexico.

This week the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released the 2008 annual report reviewing the progress of its Gulf of Mexico commercial red snapper individual fishing quota program (IFQ), which is a type of catch share.

The report shows continued success for red snapper two years into the program, and provides additional support for implementing IFQs to rebuild other troubled fisheries.

The report’s conservation highlights include:

  • Overfishing is being reversed in the commercial fishery.
  • Fishermen have caught under less than allotment by 2.5-4.0 percent in the past two years.
  • Fishermen cut their ratio of wasted fish to fish taken to the docks by almost 70 percent.  (Before the IFQ, for every fish a fisherman kept, he threw one back dead. Now, fishermen only throw one back for every three to four that they keep.)

The report’s economic highlights include:

  • Long season closures and extreme market swings have been eliminated. 
  • With year-round fishing, fishermen bring high quality fish to the dock when consumer demand is high, helping their businesses remain profitable. 
  • The price fishermen pay for quota, the long-term privilege to catch red snapper, rose by 37 percent, reflecting optimism for a healthy fishery and a commitment to conservation.

With the conservation gains seen in the commercial red snapper fishery in just a few years, we are optimistic that rebuilding is getting underway and the payoff might be a rising catch limit in the near future. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is on the right track by considering IFQs and other catch share plans for many of its other commercial and sport fisheries that are in dire need of better management.

The NMFS report concludes that the commercial red snapper fishery is on the right track, and it identifies a few ways that it can be improved.  For example, the mislabeling of fish needs to be stopped, and better ways are needed to count dead fish that some vessels continue to throw overboard, especially off of the Florida peninsula coast.

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Senior Scientist Rod Fujita Comments on NMFS' New Salmon Biological Opinion

Two weeks ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service release a new Biological Opinion on the ecological challenges of salmon populations in the Pacific, including the California Bay-Delta (Sacramento-San Joaquin). EDF Senior Scientist, Rod Fujita comments on NMFS Biological Opinion and how the efforts of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan must equally match those of NMFS. Read his full post on EDFish' sister blog, On the Water Front.

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