Selected tags: Quota

New management plan continues to yield conservation & economic benefits in Pacific groundfishery: NOAA report

fishery observer

WCGOP Observer
Photo Credit: NOAA Report, supplied by Sean Sullivan

On September 24, NOAA Fisheries released their report on the second year (2012) of the West Coast Groundfish Catch Shares Program, a program that EDF has been instrumental in helping to develop, implement and improve. The report notes the spirit of partnership that helped bring a catch share management system to the Pacific Coast, and praises the program's conservation and economic performance. Mostly, however, NOAA credits fishermen for using the flexibility afforded under catch shares to improve their long-term economic prospects and avoid overfished species.

 

 

Here are some highlights:

  • Conservation: The report notes “a significant reduction in the amount of bycatch,” of overfished species, and concludes that the program “is actively rebuilding several groundfish stocks.”
  • Catch: Harvest of target stocks continues to improve—up 5% from 2011.
  • Business Flexibility: Transfers of quota between fishermen increased dramatically in comparison with 2011, and were relatively constant throughout the year. This increase indicates better understanding among fishermen of how to leverage their allotment for efficient business planning.

NOAA’s report also reflects the strong and growing interest among West Coast fishery stakeholders in transitioning from 100% observer coverage on groundfish boats to lower cost alternatives, like cameras, that will still ensure 100% accountability for all catch.

The West Coast catch shares program is still a work in progress, but NOAA’s analysis is very encouraging.

“The report from the second year reinforces what we’re seeing. There are a lot of positive things happening that provide a solid foundation for building on,” said Shems Jud, Deputy Director of EDF’s Pacific Ocean team. “By working with fishermen now to help lower their operating costs and expand fishing opportunity, we think this program can be made durable for the long-term, and eventually turn into a real economic success story.”

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European Maritime Fisheries Fund: Why Investing in Allocation Matters

EU parliament

The EU Parliament will vote in plenary this fall on the EMFF. Photo Credit: Europa.eu

Given scarce resources in the  EU and UK, it’s especially important that fishing privileges are allocated in a way that best serves national sustainability interests—and now is the time to invest. This month, the European Council approved proposals to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the EU’s framework for fisheries management. The new policy calls for Member States to end discarding and restore fisheries to sustainable levels.  It mandates implementation of systems for allocation of fishing opportunities that are transparent and objective, and that take into consideration environmental and social criteria, as well as historical catch rates.

Regrettably, the fisheries policy reforms to the CFP lack the funds necessary to achieve its objectives. Shortly after the policy puzzle pieces fell into place, Parliament’s Fisheries Committee took up the accompanying funding legislation – the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) –and shot itself in the foot. Unlike the Council of Ministers, the Parliament’s Committee voted not to provide member states, and potentially other stakeholders such as Producer Organizations, with financial support for designing, monitoring and engaging stakeholders in the process of developing fair and transparent allocation schemes.  Instead, the Committee voted to re-institute boat-buying and engine-modernizing subsidies, which undermines sustainability by prodding fishermen to increase their fishing capacity.

Despite this setback, there is cause for optimism concerning member states ability to engage in sustainable investment in the industry.  That is precisely what the UK did, well ahead of the new EU mandate, by recognizing the importance of fair allocation through the reallocation of unused quota from larger to smaller vessels. In advance of any decision to reallocate the unused quota, the UK government carried out a thorough assessment of quota usage and fishing patterns, delivered a detailed economic analysis and conducted comprehensive stakeholder engagement.  The outcome of the court case affirmed the government’s authority to make management decisions about quota allocation and illuminates future possibilities for member states to operate in innovative ways to deliver mutually beneficial solutions for both fishermen and the environment.

While the judgment is celebrated by the UK small scale fleet, this is just the beginning of work to strengthen a policy to maximize return on investment and support sustainable fishing communities and a healthy marine environment. This case illustrates exactly the type of sustainable investment the EMFF should support in covering costs associated with fixing broken systems, helping fisheries in transition, and supporting sustainable communities. It is therefore critical that the EU invests in initiatives that deliver smart, sustainable allocation systems, not in foolish fleet-building. Fortunately, the full Parliament will have a chance to correct these flawed decisions when it takes up the legislation in the fall.

 

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Landmark UK court case: Fish quota can be redistributed to smaller vessels

A high court in the UK this week ruled that unused fishing quotas can be redistributed by the government from large scale vessels to smaller ones. Small scale inshore fishermen and fisheries minister Richard Benyon celebrated the decision as bringing added value to coastal communities in the UK.

The judgment affirmed the Ministry’s authority to re-distribute unused quota from the larger fleet to the in-shore, smaller vessels in order to maximize the UK’s share of EU fishery resources. But the case has broader implications, illustrating the importance of transparent and equitable management of the fishing quota system – not only ensuring that allocations are fair, but that the nature and security of those fishing privileges are understood by everyone involved.

The process followed by the Ministry before making the re-allocation – a detailed assessment of quota usage (and non-usage) and extensive public consultation – was cited by the Court and central to the finding that a quota re-alignment was foreseeable by the large-scale fleet, permissible under the law, and in the public’s interest. Yet, the Court also took note of the investments that the previous quota holders and their bankers made in expectation of future fishing activities.

The ruling underscores the need to design allocation privileges in a careful, inclusive manner, including input from all fishery stakeholders, while factoring in social, economic and environmental concerns. The UK's Defra would be wise to start a transparent stakeholder process for the reallocation of the quota as EDF advocates in our Catch Share Design Manual.

 

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Catch Shares Address Community Impacts in Ways Conventional Fisheries Management Cannot

All fishing communities have one thing in common: they depend on healthy, productive fish stocks. Catch share management programs benefit fishing communities by helping to stabilize fisheries.  Fishing is inherently unpredictable, because it depends so much on ever-changing conditions in the oceans.  Since well-designed catch share systems give fishermen more flexibility to time their fishing activities, they are significantly better than traditional management methods at helping fishermen cope with negative fluctuations in barometric readings or in dock prices paid for the fish they deliver.

Well-designed catch share systems also include tools and mechanisms that benefit communities, things you won’t find under traditional management.

Over the years, thousands of fishing jobs have been lost due to declining fishing opportunities. Under conventional management, fishermen face ever-increasing limits on harvest levels, and shorter and shorter fishing seasons.  When fishing is allowed, conventional management often forces fishermen into a dangerous and inefficient race for fish.

One example; in the days before catch shares, the West Coast trawl fishery was on a downward economic spiral.  Processing plants were shuttered, infrastructure was lost, and ports became shadows of their former selves.  It was death by a thousand cuts – with extended fishery closures, a federal disaster declaration, dwindling trip limits, and ever-decreasing annual catch limits, fishermen were leaving the industry and the coastal communities that relied on groundfish landings were spiraling downward.   Under status quo management in place at the time, a handful of major players bought up permits and consolidated ownership. This meant even fewer owner-operators on the water. Read More »

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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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Fishermen Voices: Dave Preble – Narragansett, Rhode Island

This clip is from a fall 2008 interview with Dave Preble, a 45-year commercial and charter boat fisherman currently serving on the New England Fishery Management Council. Dave describes both the pressure on a fishery and fishermen, and the safety concerns associated with current fishing regulations that trigger a "race to fish."  Under "sector" catch shares management, New England groundfishermen have begun developing business strategies to maximize the benefits of harvesting specified allocations of fish when they choose rather than competing with other fishermen for a scarce resource.

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