Selected tags: Oceans

EDF Statement in Response to Today's "Keep Fishermen Fishing" Rally

Hundreds of fishermen rallied today in Washington, D.C. to voice frustration over fishing regulations.  We understand that many fishermen are frustrated, often for good reason.  Even though some fisheries have rebounded, in many places preventing overfishing has meant shrinking fishing seasons or even implementing closures, approaches that have serious economic impacts and limit access.

However, the focus should not be on gutting the law.  Instead we need to use the flexibility in the law and innovative management approaches to address the challenges we face.  For example, NOAA is using this flexibility to address the looming crisis with Gulf of Maine cod, using the law’s emergency provisions to allow higher levels of fishing while open scientific questions are investigated further.  Many sides have come together to propose a solution that we hope will protect both the fish and the fishermen.

We can't go back to overfishing, but we can use ideas available under existing law to rebuild fisheries and give fishermen the flexibility to improve both fish populations and profits.  While many speakers at today’s rally pushed various bills that would impose top-down mandates from Washington, we believe fishery management is best decided at the council level where fishermen can directly influence how the resource they depend on is managed.

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Catch Share Conversations: Monitoring Systems Case Studies

Teal basket full of red snapper

Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper

Throughout this week in our Catch Share Conversations series, we have explored the importance of monitoring, and discussed best practices of monitoring systems. Today, we present two case studies—British Columbia Groundfish and Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish– that highlight the diversity of fisheries and accompanying monitoring systems.  These distinctly different examples show how monitoring systems reflect the unique goals and characteristics of a fishery and how two different fisheries design monitoring programs to meet their needs. 

The British Columbia Groundfish fishery is a multispecies fishery with a fleet that employs a wide range of gear types. It employs one of the most sophisticated monitoring systems in the world, including hail in/hail out, 100 percent dockside coverage, 100 percent at-sea monitoring, including observers for trawl vessels, and electronic video monitoring for hook & line and trap vessels.

The Gulf of Mexico Reef fish fishery is a multispecies fishery. The fishery uses logbooks, partial at-sea monitoring, dockside coverage, electronic reporting, VMS and hail in/hail out monitoring techniques to reach program goals. 

Read the complete fact sheets for more details on the British Columbia Groundfish and Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish monitoring systems.

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EDF Partners with National Geographic on "I Am The Ocean" Campaign

Help Protect the Ocean. Join I Am The Ocean today.Last week, National Geographic launched the campaign "I Am The Ocean", also referred to as Mission Blue. This effort in partnership with several environmental organizations, including EDF, sends out a global call to action to raise public awareness, start conversations, and inspire people to help protect the ocean.

One billion people worldwide depend on fish and shellfish for their protein. The ocean is key to sustaining life on the planet — from the air we breathe to the water we drink, so it is critical for us to protect it.

Through this action-oriented marine conservation initiative, you can participate by making the right seafood choices, volunteering for costal clean-up, and learning about 10 other things you can do to save the ocean. In addition, you can even purchase a bottle of "I Am the Ocean" wine and $4 will be donated to promote marine protected areas and reduce overfishing. Join "I Am The Ocean" today.

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The Deadliest Catch? Less Dangerous Under Catch Shares

Under conventional fishery management, fishermen often have no choice but to go out in rough seas. Under catch share management, fishermen have the flexibility to wait and fish in good weather and safer waters.

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that in 2009 commercial fishing once again had the highest fatality rate per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. The rate was approximately 60 times the average fatality rate for all workers, and was higher than for loggers, police and sheriff’s patrol officers, as well as aircraft pilots and flight engineers.

Why is it so dangerous? To a certain degree, fishing is inherently dangerous – going out on a boat in the middle of the ocean, hauling heavy swinging pots or nets onto a deck covered in gear while waves crash around you carries a certain amount of risk. But the job can be made more dangerous due to restrictive fishery management policies that try to limit fishermen’s catch by severely limiting fishing seasons and/or days-at-sea. When faced with such restrictions, fishermen attempt to maximize their catch in these short windows of time by going out regardless of weather, working longer shifts and overloading their boats with equipment.

Keith “Buddy” Guindon from Galveston, Texas had one of the scariest moments of his career as a lifelong commercial fisherman when the Gulf’s commercial red snapper fishery used to be limited to short seasons. He and his crew fished so long and hard that one night the lookout on duty fell asleep, leaving the boat to drive itself for 2 to 3 hours through the Gulf’s now infamous oil field. Surprisingly, the boat didn’t wreck — avoiding potentially fatal consequences.

One way safety can be improved is with catch share management. Under catch shares, fishermen are required to stay within a specified cap for the season and in return have flexibility about over when to fish. The result is safer jobs. Five years after catch shares were implemented, ten U.S. and British Columbian commercial fisheries saw an average 2.5 fold increase in safety, as measured by lost vessels, search and rescue missions, injuries, deaths and safety violations.

The number of search and rescue missions for Alaska’s halibut and sablefish fishermen declined after catch shares were implemented from 26 and 33 in 1993 and 1994 respectively (pre-catch shares) to just 5 cases in 2007 and 3 in 2008 (under catch shares).   More than 85 percent Alaska halibut fishermen surveyed found fishing to be safer under catch shares.

Many people think of Alaska crab as “The Deadliest Catch” after watching the popular Discovery Channel series filmed in the Bering Sea. The Alaskan crab fisheries were quite deadly: one vessel and five crewmen were lost on average each year in the 1990s. 
The fishery became safer due to both the implementation of a dockside safety monitoring program, and by switching to catch share management. Ending the “race for fish” reduced the incentive for stacking too much gear on board (destabilizing vessels) and reduced pressure to fish in poor weather conditions. It also improved the economic stability of the industry, eliminating less seaworthy vessels and leading to the development of more professional crews, all of which contributed to improved safety.

An article in Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council, the Coast Guard Journal of Safety at Sea states, “an increased number of fishing days, increased flexibility for masters to choose when to fish, and reduced emphasis on catching power and large pot loads potentially have safety benefits and contribute to eliminating vessel losses.”  Since coming under catch share management five years ago, there has been only one crabber in Alaska who has lost his life while fishing.

The experience in Alaska illustrates how catch share programs can play an important role in improving safety. Catch shares reduce the pressure to fish in bad weather and dangerous conditions, as well as allow fishermen to work with more rest in between trips. Because catch share programs are more profitable, fishermen can also better afford to maintain their vessels.

Buddy Guindon is glad that the Gulf’s commercial red snapper fishery is now a catch share.

“It is important to note that some fisheries are far more dangerous than others,” said Dave Preble, a retired charter boat and commercial fisherman from Rhode Island, who is currently on the New England Fishery Management Council. “But all fisheries are safer under quota/hard TAC (catch share) management."

Linked Sources

Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2009. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf

National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2009 – Preliminary Results. Press Release. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. August 19, 2010. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf

National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2009 – Preliminary Results. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Hours-based fatal injury rates by industry, occupation, and selected demographic characteristics. August 19, 2010. http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfoi_rates_2009hb.pdf

“Assessing the Potential for LAPPs in US Fisheries,” by Redstone Strategy Group, LLC and Environmental Defense, March 2007. http://www.redstonestrategy.com/reports.php?action=detail&publicationID=12

NOAA Fisheries Service. Catch Share Spotlight No. 1. Alaska IFQ Halibut and Sablefish Program, November 2009. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/domes_fish/catchshare/docs/ak_halibut_sablefish.pdf

“Effects of IFQ Management on Fishing Safety: Survey Responses of Alaska Halibut Fishermen,” University of Alaska Institute of Social and Economic Research, May 1999. http://www.iser.uaa.alaska.edu/Projects/ifqsurv/safety.pdf

“Report to the Governor: Three Years of Safety, Stability and Improved Resource Management,” The Coalition for Safe and Sustainable Crab Fisheries, Alaska, Washington and Oregon, 2008. http://www.wafro.com/imageuploads/file175.pdf
 
Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council, the Coast Guard Journal of Safety at Sea, Spring 2009.

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Louisiana Oil Spill to Seriously Impact Marine Life and Fishing Communities in the Gulf; Federal Government Must Act Swiftly

NASA satellite view of the Louisiana coastline showing the oil spill creeping toward the Mississippi Delta.

NASA satellite view of the Louisiana coastline showing the oil spill creeping toward the Mississippi Delta.

The ocean ecosystems and fishing communities in the Gulf of Mexico face potentially catastrophic impacts as a result of the 5,000 barrels of oil a day spewing out of the sub-seabed and into the waters off the coast of Louisiana. Oil moving throughout vast expanses of Gulf waters and ocean habitat and coming ashore on the massive Gulf Coast wetlands directly threatens not just the reef fish, oysters, crabs and shrimp that actually live there, but also many other species that use the reefs, marshes and other wetlands as nurseries, or that depend upon them for prey which lives or develops there.

The beaches that are likely to be coated with oil also provide important feeding grounds for shorebirds and fish alike, and essential nesting areas for sea turtles. In addition, a large number of ocean species release larvae to drift with the currents in near-surface waters — exactly where the oil currently is — in their most vulnerable life stages.

Together, a huge fraction of the fish production in the region is at risk – a body blow both to marine ecosystems and the multi-billion dollar coastal industries tied to commercial fishing and seafood, and sport fisheries and recreation. It is especially sad that this catastrophe threatens the fishing communities of the Gulf that have become national leaders in transforming oceans fisheries to models of sustainability. EDF calls on the federal government to act swiftly to minimize preventable damage, but also with compassion to bring aid and assistance to already-reeling coastal communities.

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Statement of Sally McGee, EDF New England Fisheries Policy Director and NEFMC member, on Today's Council Actions

Sally McGee, EDF New England Fisheries Policy Director

Sally McGee, EDF New England Fisheries Policy Director

Today, Sally McGee, EDF's New England Fisheries Policy Director released the following statement on today's NE Council actions.

"I am pleased to support recommendations today for modifications to the skate and the red crab fisheries which will increase flexibility and likely lead to increased profitability for many New England fishermen.

"Consistent with New England Fishery Management Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) recommendations, the Council has recommended that the National Marine Fisheries Service should increase the skate wing possession limit from 1900 to 5000 pounds.  This will help reduce discards and add a revenue stream for some groundfishermen while maintaining a sustainable catch level.  The SSC has also identified and prioritized skate for research and assessment of age, growth, maturity, discards and bycatch over the next several years so we will continually better our understanding of these important species.

"Also, the new red crab analysis by the SSC provided an opportunity to increase the Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) to more accurately reflect the state of the fishery.  Consistent with the best science available, I was glad to join a unanimous vote in favor of increasing the ABC to 1775 metric tons for fishing year 2010.  It is very encouraging that this new analysis, provided by the Council’s scientific advisors, shows us that increasing the ABC for this stock will allow fishermen to catch more crab while maintaining the long term sustainability of this fishery. 

"The skate and red crab management measures before the Council today are precisely the kind of actions that the NEFMC should take to support New England fishermen and fisheries."

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Congressional Hearing Presents Narrow View of Catch Shares

U.S. House Hearing Room at the April 22 hearing on catch shares and communities

U.S. House hearing room at the April 22, 2010 hearing on catch shares and communities.

A hearing today in the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife mostly overlooked evidence of the benefits of catch shares and instead zeroed in on fears.  Out of the eight witnesses who testified, just one was a fisherman, Bob Dooley, who has actually fished in a catch share program. 

Reflecting on his personal experience fishing in catch share-managed fisheries, Bob Dooley, a fisherman from California, told the committee that “an investment in catch shares … will provide huge benefits to fishing families and coastal communities.”  Other fishermen supportive of catch shares submitted written comments such as Glen Brooks, a grouper fisherman from Florida and president of the Gulf Fishermen's Association.  A number of pro-catch share fishermen also came to the hearing with bold t-shirts that read “Fisherman for Catch Shares.” 

The mostly negative tenor of the hearing didn't come as a surprise.  Fishermen and lawmakers have good reasons to be frustrated these days.  Overfishing has continued in many of the nation’s most valuable fisheries despite years of ever-restrictive measures that have put thousands of fishermen out of business.  Today more than 60 federal fish stocks are overfished or have overfishing occurring.  The result is declining catches and shrinking revenues for fishermen.  

Contrast that picture with catch shares, which can lead to greater prosperity, sustainability and flexibility for fishermen.  When the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico faced severe restrictions because of overfishing, fishery managers worked with commercial fishermen to develop a catch share program, which has increased dock-side prices, decreased bycatch and helped end overfishing (Steele 2008).  Red snapper populations are now rebounding, meaning more fish for everyone, including recreational fishermen. 

Fishermen supportive catch shares wear t-shirts voicing their support at the April 22, 2010 Natural Resources Committee hearing on catch shares and communities: "Fishermen for Catch Shares".

Fishermen wear t-shirts voicing their support for catch shares at the April 22, 2010 Natural Resources Committee hearing on catch shares and communities: "Fishermen for Catch Shares".

There was some talk today about concern for fishing communities and the tools available with catch shares – and not available under conventional management – like permit banks, quota set-asides like adaptive management programs, and community development quotas.  These tools guarantee that the values of communities will be respected whether that means providing a way for new fishermen to enter the fishery or making sure that jobs associated with the fishery remain local. 

Many of the witnesses complained about the impacts on their businesses and communities of shortened fishing seasons under traditional management systems, yet failed to recognize that shifting to catch shares would allow them to fish throughout the year.

This hearing should have focused more on how to design catch shares that best reflect the needs and values of fishermen, fishing communities and the nation.  That’s a big enough job and where the discussion about catch shares ought to be.

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The Weekly Catch: Must Read News for the Week

Halibut Illustration

Halibut

This week's news catch brings in two great pieces – an article from The Seattle Times and an editorial from Cape Cod Times. Both pieces point toward catch shares as a solution to end overfishing. Hal Bernton of The Seattle Times reports on the prosperous health of the pacific halibut fishery since its transition to catch share management. Cape Cod Times recognizes some of the fishing industry's hesitation to move to sector-based catch share management in New England, but rightly states, "The new system is not what's causing the industry's pain; the overfishing of the past is."

"For tradition-rich halibut fisherman, the future looks prosperous"
The Seattle Times, Thursday, April 1, 2010 – By Hal Bernton

"Protect the Resource"
Cape Cod Times, Thursday, April 1, 2010 – Editorial

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