A new report by an independent global organization lays out an eight-point plan to reverse ocean decline and advance recovery of the high seas.
The Global Ocean Commission (GOC), an independent organization of prominent leaders from around the globe formed to develop feasible solutions for key challenges facing the high seas, yesterday issued its final report, “From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean.” It outlines five drivers of ocean decline and an eight-part proposal to recover the high seas, an area of our oceans outside the jurisdiction of individual countries.
EDF applauds the commission for bringing high-level international attention to the important role oceans play in sustaining life on the planet, and we are pleased to see the optimism and solution-focus of the report. The commission’s call to action must be heeded; recovery of the ocean is both possible and imperative to sustaining life on earth. Read More »
World Oceans Day is an annual reminder that the oceans are our planet’s greatest natural resource and that we must take actions to protect them. The livelihoods of millions of people around the world depend on healthy oceans, yet they face threats including overfishing, acidification and marine pollution.
Fortunately, all eyes will be on the oceans this June through a series of international events designed to raise awareness, inspire positive policies and spark conversations between local governments, fishermen and conservationists about how to build a brighter future. Here are a few events to watch: Read More »
Today, June 8, 2012 marks the fourth World Oceans Day. The United Nations established this special day both to celebrate and pay tribute to the mighty body of water that covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and contains 97% of the planet’s water. The world’s oceans generate most of the oxygen we breathe, regulate our climate, clean the water we drink and house potential medicines for illnesses.
Let’s not forget that our oceans also provide us with seafood, which plays an integral role in the food security of billions of people worldwide. Small and large communities in many regions of the world depend on fish as a primary source of protein. For many, it provides an invaluable supplement for diversified and healthy diets. Our oceans also support the fishing industry, which provides an important means of income for millions of people and their families.
Our oceans do a great deal for us and on this day we must recognize that they are in serious trouble. According to the 2010 State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report, more than 80% of global fisheries are fully or over exploited. But the tide is turning in American fisheries. Fisheries management reform and best practices are nursing these fisheries back to health—rebounding fish stocks, returning job stability and providing consumers with fresh and sustainably caught seafood. And this is definitely excellent news to celebrate. Happy World Oceans Day.
Emilie Litsinger, EDF Oceans NE Groundfish Project Manager
This week senators from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island sent a letter to Eric Schwaab, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, proposing several refinements to enhance the New England groundfish sector management program. EDF agrees that we need to be adaptive and sectors – as with all fisheries management tools — need to be refined as experience is gathered and evaluated. With more than a year of operation under sectors now complete, results of the program’s performance show signs of progress that the fishery has started to turn the corner to a more ecologically and economically stable fishery.
EDF agrees with the senators and is very focused on improving the at-sea monitoring program so that is more reliable, comprehensive, and cost effective. At-sea monitoring costs need to be reduced and the use and electronic monitoring systems need to be approved. EDF commissioned Northern Economics Inc to conduct an independent 3rd party review of the current sector monitoring program to compare the program with similar programs on the Pacific Coast and in Alaska to make recommendations for improving the design and reducing the costs of the program. Read More »
Heated arguments over fishing policy are nothing new, but evaluating them is harder when they’re based on incorrect information. A recent assertion that safety had not improved under the Alaska crab catch share program badly mischaracterizes the record. While that program is not perfect, safety has improved dramatically. This was the focus of the article below.
One of the claims made in Food and Water Watch's paper attacking catch share programs is that the safety benefit claimed for such programs is illusory.
Unfortunately for them, there is ample documentation and factual testimony to contradict that assertion.
One of the most dramatic results of the Bering Sea crab rationalization program has been a continued improvement in crab fishing vessel safety, which the Coast Guard says could not have been achieved through other methods.
For example, in the five year review of the crab program, completed in Oct of 2010, Jennifer Lincoln of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and Coast Commander Christopher J. Woodley jointly wrote:
'The BSAI CR program has clearly demonstrated the ability to improve safety by making foundational changes which increase fishing time, reduce an emphasis on catching power, allow large, more efficient and safer vessels to remain in the fishery, and improve crew experience. These are areas that are typically difficult to control through Coast Guard safety regulations.'
In their paper, Food and Water Watch quotes some crew members from the Bering Sea Crab fishery saying 'These fishermen generally do not consider the fishery to be any safer, since owners only hire a minimum number of crew members and have deadlines to meet for processors.'
One crew member said: 'They say it was for security purposes but people still die every year. The only difference is that there are fewer boats now, so there are less people getting hurt. But they're doing the same work.'
This statement is simply factually untrue. According to the Coast Guard, between 2005 and 2010, there was only a single fatality in the Bering Sea crab fishery. This death was the result of a man overboard. People do not die every year.
In the previous five years prior to rationalization, there were 8 deaths, and in the period from 1995 to 2000, there were 22 deaths.
In fact, during the 1990's, the Bering sea crab fishery had an 'astronomical fatality rate of 770 fatalities per 100,000 full time fishermen', said the Coast Guard.
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.
I recently spent a few hours taking stock of how our Nation is doing, using traditional approaches to fisheries management. My conclusion: not very well. As of December 31st, sixty federally managed fish stocks and stock complexes (containing an additional twenty species or so) were either overfished, being over fished, or both. That doesn’t even count the stocks for which the scientific information is so poor that we are “flying” blind or, many important but overfished non-federal stocks.
Take a look at the homepage of the South Atlantic Council's website (to the right). It shows closures for most of the “money fish” in the region – king mackerel, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, red snapper, groupers, and most of the other shallow-water reef fish. The costs of business-as-usual to commercial and recreational fishermen, fishing families, coastal communities, and coastal economies is staggering . . . not to mention to ocean ecosystems.
Thankfully, there is a better way — catch shares. While there are no silver bullets that will fix these fishery problems overnight – the problems been decades in the making – catch shares are the clear solution. You can read more about how to design a catch share at EDF's Catch Share Design Center.
In the current issue of Science twenty-one leading ocean scientists declared a truce—it’s as if Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner agreed to stop the chase for a day. The paper was authored by many of the biggest names on all sides of the debate on ending overfishing—Boris Worm, Ray Hilborn, Andy Rosenberg and Chris Costello. So what are the terms?
First, they agree on what I will call a “Goldilocks” catch level (You know—not too hot, not too cold, but just right.) If we fish too much, then fish get smaller, catch levels eventually go down and lots of species end up on the road to ruin. If we fish too little, we can keep the fish in the oceans healthy, but fish for people goes way down. Fishing just right would mean aiming to catch about 20 percent of ocean fish every year. At that level, fish would be bigger, the long term catch would be stable at a high level, and the news for ecosystems—whales, dolphins, and turtles—would be good too; at least 90% of species would be at healthy levels-which is quite a bit better than we are doing now.
The second part of the paper is where the scientists waded into the hot debate on what management works to get to the Goldilocks level. The scientists looked at the big ocean places that are making progress and asked managers what worked. The first thing they found was that most places use a mix of approaches for the mix of ecosystem types-so there is not a panacea. Pretty much everyone will agree to that.
What comes out on top, though? It comes down to effectively implementing caps on catch levels using two key tools: reducing the Total Allowable Catch and putting in place catch shares. (You can look at their table where a solution was identified in at least five of the ten fisheries, and was usually ranked an “essential” part of the solution.) This is strong stuff!
There are lots of questions yet to answer—like why is it that a catch share program always had a reduced allowable catch level? Is the theory right that catch shares make it easier to set the catch level properly? And what makes it possible for enough stakeholders to agree to close off areas of the ocean? What are the keys to community co-management, which seems to work in small-scale fisheries? I expect that the scientists will go back to their corners and duke out those questions. I can’t wait.