Selected tags: Sectors

108 New England Fishermen Stand Up for Sector Management

Marking a major shift in the public debate over the groundfish fishery in New England, 108 fishermen from the five coastal New England states — representing all sizes of operations and 178 boats — have submitted a letter  to their Members of Congress saying that a vocal minority in the industry has for too long dominated the debate over Sector management. This letter says that, in fact, there are many fishermen that want their members of Congress to support stability, profitability and flexibility for their fishery, rather than a return to the “chaos” of the previous management approach.

“A few voices calling for the overturn of the entire Sector system have been amplified in the media, and we understand that our elected officials are trying to respond to their constituents’ concerns,” the groups wrote in a letter addressed to “New England’s Senators and Congressmen.”

“Unfortunately,” the letter states, this has led to a series of increasingly dangerous proposals that truly put the future of our businesses and fisheries at risk. Perhaps too many of us in the active industry have been too busy making the new system work to consistently weigh in. This letter is our attempt to rectify that situation.”

The letter was signed by 108 fishermen affiliated with the Associated Fisheries of Maine; Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association; Midcoast Fishermen’s Association; Northeast Seafood Coalition; and Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association. Read More »

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Head to Tailfin: Sustainable, Locally-caught Seafood

Recently, I had the pleasure of joining the “Head to Tailfin” dinner organized by Slow Food Boston at Boston’s 606 Congress restaurant.  The seven-course menu paired original seafood creations crafted by Executive Chef Rich Garcia, a former chef in the U.S. Marine Corps who has been featured in the culinary magazine Star Chefs, with Spanish wines selected by sommelier Jack Guinan.  And, wow, was the meal something special!

Chef Garcia’s aim was to show how the whole animal can be used, from the head all the way to the tailfin.  Consistent with the slow food philosophy, Rich used locally caught seafood, with one exception: The fifth course featured shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico as a show of support for the region’s seafood industry recovering from the detrimental ecological and public perception effects of the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

Among the dishes of New England origin, my favorite was a toss-up between deep-fried cod tongue and cheeks, and sous vide long fin squid with Hill Farms pork belly.  The cod was caught under the sector management system implemented in the New England groundfish fishery last year, one of the newest catch share systems in the nation.  The squid was caught by the same fishermen who created and operate Rhode Island’s fluke sector out of Point Judith.  Diners were able to learn which captain caught their squid, and where and when it was caught, using QR codes provided during the meal as part of the new “Trace and Trust” program.   Read More »

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Recent Op-Eds in NE Media Share Successes and Next Steps for Groundfish Sectors

After more than a year under the new groundfish sector management system, stakeholders in New England are examining what progress has been made and what refinements to the system are needed.  Emilie Litsinger, EDF's NE Groundfish Project Manager, recently authored two op-eds that examine why sectors are better than the old system, and how sectors will work even better for fishermen by making some improvements, such as reducing at-sea monitoring costs, setting accumulation limits and allowing for unused quota to carry over into future fishing seasons.

Read Emilie's op-eds:

Reviewing a year of fishing-sector management
The Providence Journal
October 7, 2011

A perfect time to talk about groundfish solutions
New Bedford-Standard Times
September 29, 2011

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One Year of Sector Management in New England Fisheries

Emilie Litsinger, EDF Oceans NE Groundfish Project Manager

Emilie Litsinger, EDF Oceans NE Groundfish Project Manager

A report by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released Wednesday highlights results of the first year of the groundfish sector management program in New England. The dramatic management shift appears to be helping the fishery turn the corner to a more economically and environmentally sustainable fishery.

With the first full year of operation under sectors now complete, results of the program’s performance are encouraging. Sector fishermen stayed within their allowed catch levels, groundfish revenues were essentially stable, overall revenues were up, fishermen received higher prices for fish, and  the amount of wasted fish dumped overboard was substantially reduced.

The report highlights a number of continuing trends. For example, the number of active groundfish vessels has been declining for over a decade.  The eight percent decline in the 2010 fishing year was similar to the decline from 2007 to 2009. 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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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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NMFS, NOAA & NE Fishery Management Council Work Together to Address Initial Hurdles of Groundfish Sectors

Julie Wormser, New England & Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.

Julie Wormser, New England & Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.

Sector management has been in place in the New England fishery now for several months, and while there are still some issues to be worked out, preliminary data show some positive results. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), fishing industry and the New England Fishery Management Council are all working together to address some of the initial hurdles and to help sectors operate more smoothly.

For starters, on Thursday the Council unanimously agreed to establish accumulation limits for the groundfish fishery. Once the cap is in place, this will benefit small boats and fishing communities because there will no longer be excess accumulation by a small group of individuals. This will make it easier for small boats to continue to fish profitably.

As reported at the Council meeting, the first three months of sector operations resulted in (May 1 – August 15): 

  • Fishermen earning more money for less fishing under the new system. In 2010, landings are down compared to 2009. Only 85.8 percent of total landings last year were landed this year (for the same period of time). Meanwhile, revenues are up 112.4 percent.
  • Sector fishermen are avoiding weak stocks and targeting robust stocks. The ratio of Georges Bank cod to Georges Bank haddock (in metric tons) in 2009 was 1121:1532. In 2010, it was 743:2768.
  • Landings of Gulf of Maine winter flounder, a stock at very low abundance, are being effectively avoided under sectors. In 2009, 66 metric tons were landed. In 2010, 32 metric tons were landed.

Other developments include:

  • Sectors are more effective than the old days-at-sea policy and more people are getting out of the common pool and into sectors as a result. NMFS announced this week that 822 permits have enrolled in sectors for 2011, an 8 percent increase from this year, representing 98 percent of annual catch limits.
  • Responding to industry requests, NMFS/NOAA committed at the Sept. 9 groundfish committee meeting to immediately improve the weekly information flow between the agency and sector managers.
  • Earlier this week, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Eric Schwaab announced plans to conduct a regional audit of the fishery management process in New England, to help improve relationships between key stakeholders and to help sectors operate more smoothly.
  • Also this week, Commerce Secretary Locke announced that $3 million in federal grants would be made available for cooperative research that will help fishermen develop new equipment to prevent bycatch in the New England region.

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3 Months In: New Bedford Standard Times Provides Insight into the Progress of Catch Shares in New England

Julie Wormser, NE Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.

Julie Wormser, NE Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.

This past Sunday, the New Bedford Standard Times published a set of three articles that gave insight into the progress of sectors (group catch shares) in Massachusetts. 

There is good news in the articles:

  • The fishermen who are fishing are seeing higher revenues, while others are waiting for prices to increase, a strategy they are free to employ under this system.
  • Sectors such as the one in New Bedford, managed by David deOliveira, are working together to manage their allocations of scarce stocks to “keep everyone fishing.”
  • Leasing allocations is of real value financially to fishermen considering retirement.

The articles also highlight improvements to the sector system that can and should be made as well as the challenges associated with low catch limits, which is entirely unrelated to catch shares. Many of these issues are currently being discussed by the industry, the New England Fisheries Management Council, and conservation groups. 

Many opportunities identified in the articles are a function of how the catch share was designed.  Catch shares can be designed to accommodate the communities that depend on fisheries. 

Catch limits

As Don Cuddy’s article points out, "Many fishermen believe their economic woes are not a result of sectors or any particular management system but from catch limits that they believe are set artificially low."

The 2010 catch limits were developed based on NOAA’s best available science. But carefully targeted investments in science and scientific processes – including those outlined by Senators Kerry and Snowe in their recent appropriations request — can provide relatively quick improvement in assessments of key stocks, and may well increase allocation of certain stocks.

There are several design elements that can help the fleet through times of low catch limits.  For example, the Pacific groundfish fishery held back ten percent of the quota for "adaptive management" and has already dipped into that quota to provide additional allocations of a particularly weak stock—canary rockfish—for fishermen who lacked enough to legally fish for other species. 

Consolidation

In Steve Urbon’s NBST piece, he discusses the “consolidation of the industry.”  While that is a concern, it has to be weighed against the consolidation of the fleet that was occurring under the previous Days-At-Sea (DAS) management system.

In the New England groundfish fishery, in 2001, 1,100 active boats used 65,347 groundfish DAS for an average of 60 DAS per active vessel.  In 2007, 574 active boats used 32,804 DAS for an average of 57 DAS per active vessel.   As the number of days fishermen were allowed out on the water dropped dramatically, so too, did the number of boats fishing.

There are design elements in catch share systems around the world that can alleviate some of the consolidation concerns while supporting fleet diversity, smaller ports, and small-scale fishermen with less access to capital. 

For example, quota accumulation caps could be used to limit the amount of fish that any one participant has access to.  The Interspecies Committee of the New England Fishery Management Council voted unanimously at its April 2010 meeting to recommend to the full Council that accumulation caps be developed and implemented for the 20 groundfish stocks managed under sectors.  This action can help protect the smaller boats by preventing the fleet from being dominated by a few big players.

Limiting permit transferability, ownership and use is also used to achieve specific objectives.  For example, some catch share systems require a certain percentage of the harvest to be landed in specific ports to protect the shoreside infrastructure.  Other fisheries require quota owners to be on board in order to catch their share in order to discourage corporations from acquiring large amounts of quota.   

Moving forward

Much of New England's fishing community has struggled over the past several decades.  Regulations meant to bring back once-abundant cod, flounders and other groundfish have instead squeezed the fleet's profitability.

Sectors can help the New England groundfishery move towards an increase in fish populations; an increase in per-boat revenues; a dramatic reduction in bycatch and an increase in the use of sustainable fishing practices.

The New Bedford Standard Times has raised important questions and opportunities for improvement in the groundfish fishery.  Now is the time to make refinements to New England’s groundfish sectors.  There are many options and the best outcomes will likely occur when all stakeholders – fishermen, shoreside businesses, conservation groups, legislators, and Council members — participate in the process with the shared goal of creating a fishery with healthy fish stocks and thriving fishing communities.

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