Selected tags: Ocean

The Business of Marine Reserves: Achieving Financially Sustainable Ocean Conservation

photo credit: Phil's 1stPix via photopin cc

Ocean conservationists have been arguing for a long time that marine reserves are a good investment, because they help sustain many ecosystem services, including fisheries and tourism.  Various studies have helped to quantify the value generated by marine reserves, but a new study puts it all together and presents a convincing value proposition for marine reserves.  Now all we need are investors who can appreciate that value proposition and make it work economically, and the right combination of rules and governance that will make these new kinds of markets – ecomarkets – viable.

The benefits of marine reserves often outweigh the costs of establishing and maintaining them. You would think that there would be great demand for them, but instead the pace of marine reserve establishment has been slow and conflict-ridden.  Why? Because many groups of people benefit from the status quo, and would suffer short-term economic harm from marine reserves.  Also, the benefits of marine reserves take several years to accrue, while the costs are immediate.  And while some of the benefits are fairly concrete and flow to discrete user groups – like lower fishing costs and higher fishery yields near the borders – others are less concrete (e.g., biodiversity and aesthetics) and flow to many user groups (e.g. tourists and people who like natural environments), including some (e.g., future generations) that don’t have much say in present day decisions.

So theoretically, marine reserves can pay for themselves and then some.  But right now, few people want to invest in them.  How do we change that? Read More »

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Finding the Ecological Cliff and Staying Away from It: Thresholds for Sustainability

In “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,” author and journalist, Malcolm Gladwell explains how sociological changes often happen very quickly and unexpectedly.   He describes a tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.”

It turns out that many natural ecosystems have tipping points too, called ecological thresholds.  Healthy ocean ecosystems can resist change, exist in alternative states and recover from storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions – and even from human activities like pollution and fishing.  Having more than one species that do similar things but in slightly different ways helps ecosystems stay healthy; i.e., makes them resilient.  But when we reduce species so much that they can't play their ecological roles or when we stress the system too much, these ecosystems can reach a tipping point and change rapidly from beautiful, productive systems to damaged systems that are incapable of creating the wonders and benefits they once produced. Read More »

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Ocean Conservation Should not be a Partisan Issue

Stetson Bank Coral and Sponges

Stetson Bank Coral and Sponges. Photo credit: Frank and Joyce Burek

No matter what happens at the polls today, the ocean and the fish that live in it will still require our attention and conservation efforts. With all the politics and rhetoric circulating throughout the media, the fact that oceans and other vital ecosystems provide invaluable resources and benefits to the billions of people on this planet tends to go unnoticed. Even worse, there is a tendency to paint the environment as a partisan issue, when regardless of your political beliefs—ensuring we have a healthy natural world is essential to your survival and happiness for the future.

The oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and contain 97% of the world’s water. An estimated 20,000 species of marine fish swim beneath the largely unexplored waters, along with complex plant and animal life including coral reefs, sea grasses, whales and sharks. Billions of people globally depend on fish as their primary source of protein, and the economic value of fishing for their livelihood. Many of these people live in poor, undeveloped countries and will rely more heavily on the ocean as populations increase and global warming impacts their ability to cultivate food on land. The reality of our global dependence on the ecosystem services that the ocean provides becomes more evident with studies such one which recently came out in Science, citing that 80% of the world’s un-assessed fisheries are in worse shape than previously thought. But there is hope if we act now to align the right incentives and increase the economic value of fisheries, while putting fishermen at the forefront of conservation.  Ensuring that the world’s fish stocks are replenished is a human imperative, not a political talking point. 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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Catch Share Design Manual and Online Design Center Provide Guidance for Fishery Managers and Fishermen

Kate Bonzon, EDF Director of Design Services

Kate Bonzon, EDF Director of Design Services

Kate Bonzon leads Catch Share Design Services at EDF and authored the Catch Share Design Manual along with her team, Karly McIlwain, Kent C. Strauss, and Tonya Van Leuvan.

Overfishing is the biggest driver of declining fisheries globally, and conventional fishery management approaches have failed to correct this. Conventional management has led to unsafe derby-style fishing, increasingly shrinking fishing seasons, and low market prices all while fish populations in the ocean continue to decline.

We need a different approach.

Catch share management is a solution to overfishing that keeps fishermen on the water and fishing as fish resources recover. Under catch share management, managers establish a scientifically-set, fishery-wide catch limit; assign portions of the catch, or shares, to individuals or groups of fishermen; and hold them directly accountable to stay within the catch limit.

Increasingly, fishery managers and fishermen are looking to catch shares as a locally-designed solution to failed fisheries management (about 275 programs already exist worldwide in fisheries large and small). Identifying the biological, economic and social goals of a fishery and incorporating design elements to meet these goals is critical to the program’s success for fishermen, fishing communities and the resource. As fishery managers and fishermen go through the design process, they have a flexible array of options from which to choose.

But, understanding what options exist and what process works for catch share design has been a key challenge in program development. 

Now there’s a dynamic new tool and guide to help improve understanding of catch share programs around the world: the Catch Share Design Center.  The Design Center includes several new tools and resources:

  • The Catch Share Design Manual, which is the first-ever comprehensive overview and roadmap through the catch share design process, drawing on hundreds of fisheries in over 30 countries and expertise from over 60 fishery experts from around the world.  The Design Manual is not prescriptive, but rather, poses a series of questions and highlights frequently used approaches from around the world.  It describes a 7-Step process to guide and inform the design of catch shares for commercial fisheries, including four in-depth case studies of fisheries that have implemented catch shares. The case studies provide comprehensive, real-life examples of the design Steps and decisions in action.
  • The global database of catch share fisheries allows users to explore and understand the design elements and characteristics for 275 catch share programs worldwide. The database is dynamic, being updated regularly, including with information from viewers or other experts.
  • The directory of resources serves as a forum for catch share experts and businesses to connect with fishery managers and fishermen engaged in catch share design and implementation.
  • Go Fish, No Fish is a game-oriented teaching tool that illustrates the differences in conventional fishery management and catch shares.

The Catch Share Design Center seeks to provide cutting-edge information and tools to fishery managers, fishermen and others in order to advance the development and implementation of catch share programs.  We welcome your participation in this endeavor.

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