Congress is about to embark on a review of what has worked and what hasn’t in a law widely regarded as having halted overfishing in many American fisheries. Though we have made progress here in the United States, overfishing is wreaking havoc on the world’s oceans and the mismanagement of our fisheries is the chief cause. Recent peer reviewed science estimates that 64% of global fisheries are depleted below the levels required to sustain production.
Overfishing can lead to the loss of important species that can upend the balance of critical ocean food webs leading to the further degradation of our ocean. To save the ocean, we must end overfishing.
One of EDF’s missions is to rebuild global fisheries with the best possible solutions that serve both fishermen and fish so that future generations can enjoy sustainable seafood, fishermen can continue to fish profitably, and our seas are healthy and abundant. Peer reviewed and published scientific evidence and our decades of experience have shown that catch shares are one of the best solutions for rebuilding depleted fisheries both in the United States and globally. Read More
Mexican fishermen with a catch of Corvina. Photo Credit: Silvia Yee
For many years the short, six week commercial Corvina fishing season in the Upper Gulf of California was marked by a frenzied race to fish, with as many as 600 boats in the water at the same time. Beginning in late February, and aligned with moon cycles, this species gathers in the Colorado River delta to spawn, a yearly ritual eagerly awaited by the local fishermen. And so every year, with so much fish to be had, and so many fishermen, thousands of tons would hit the market simultaneously. This drove the price down and resulted in even more fishing effort, which would even further depress prices – to values below that of a recycled plastic bottle. It was a vicious cycle that has become all too familiar in fisheries in Latin America and around the world. Scientists have long advised that, if unchecked, this way of fishing could lead to the complete collapse of Corvina, having dire consequences for a region with very limited economic alternatives. It is estimated that Corvina represents as much as 60% of all fish sold in Mexico City during this time of year, coinciding with Lent, when seafood consumption is highest.
Three years ago EDF, fishermen, and critical partners like Noroeste Sustentable (NOS), the Academy for Systemic Change, and the state and federal governments, set out to bring catch share management to this fishery to give fishermen and others a stake in its biological and economic success. Read More
Catch shares, a fishery management system that gives fishermen a secure share of the catch in exchange for increased monitoring and greater accountability, represent a substantial change from the way U.S. fisheries have been managed in the past.
Well-designed catch shares – particularly when they include accumulation limits – can provide safeguards for small boat fishermen, their families, and their communities. Because these are the people who are hurt most when fisheries collapse, EDF believes it is imperative to ensure that management programs take the needs of both fish and fishermen into account. Catch shares are uniquely suited to do so in a number of ways that conventional fishery management plans could not.
For example, conventional fishery management plans typically call for shortened seasons and even closures when overfishing or other factors deplete stocks. This unpredictability of management can endanger smaller operators more than bigger ones, since they may not have the flexibility to weather the changes. Because catch shares usually allow fishermen to operate all year long, they provide far greater job stability for fishermen, who know in advance how much fish they can catch during the season and what their needs will be at any given time. They can spread their catch out over the year, avoiding the gluts that occur when everyone brings in their catch at once and timing trips to maximize the price they’ll earn for that catch. Some fishermen are working directly with processors so they are fishing for species that are most sought-after at the most desirable times, earning the highest price per fish. Read More