Photo: Kaia Joye Moyer
By: Kaia Joye Moyer, Masters Student at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management
It is 5am. The sun is just rising, but Hermes Arandas, a fisher from Totolan, Dauis, Bohol in the Philippines, is anything but just waking up. Today he and six fellow fishers are pulling their banca, a long slender outrigger canoe into the boat landing area. The men left the harbor at 4 pm the previous day and have been out fishing all night. Hermes tells me that he remembers fishing with his father. Back then, the fish were not far from shore, but today they can’t be found there. In order to continue to support his family, Hermes must fish farther and longer because catch is decreasing and fish are getting smaller.
Unfortunately Hermes is not alone in his story. More than 90% of the fishermen around the world are small-scale fishers like Hermes, mostly living in developing nations. And while these fishers provide half of the global fish catch, they are also particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they rely on fish for both their livelihood and food source
It is stories like Hermes’ that brought us to the Philippines.
Small-scale coastal fisheries are central to the health of the ocean, livelihood, poverty alleviation and food security for millions around the world, but today many of them are severely threatened by chronic overfishing.
As the population increases and demand for seafood continues to rise, fishers harvest more, resulting in declining fish populations. Open access fishing, in which anyone can fish anywhere, as much as they can, is at the root of the overfishing problem.
As more and more people harvest the fish, no one is held responsible for making sure the fish don’t run out. Instead, fishers try to catch as much fish as possible, as quickly as possible, because they believe that if they don’t, someone else will get there first.
That’s why EDF is working with small-scale fishers and communities to implement fisheries management programs that rewards sustainable fishing practices. Read More
Fishing shack along a mangrove channel, Brazil
I recently visited Brazil for the first time to work with our partners in Fish Forever to choose sites to work in over the next several years, with the goal of turning fisheries with declining yields and profits into success stories for fishermen, their communities, and the environment. Fish Forever is a partnership between Rare, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the Environmental Defense Fund.
Brazil’s 300,000 square mile shelf produced about 550,000 tons of seafood in 2011, worth over $US 1.5 billion, and employs about 1 million people according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Read More
Recently, I traveled to Belize to see how TURF-reserves (territorial use rights for fishing co-located with no-take zones) are performing and learn about plans to expand them nationwide. The Mesoamerican Reef, the largest in the Atlantic Ocean, spans the Belizean coastline and is rich in biodiversity and a crucial source of income for thousands of fishers. Coastal fisheries, however, are at risk due to overfishing, and other pressures such as coastal development and climate change.
In Belize, fishers have seen a decline in their catch, and the Belize Fisheries Department is using TURF-reserves to provide fishers the right incentives to become better stewards of their resources. As fishers take better care of their fishing area they will realize benefits and secure them for future generations. This approach to fisheries management is known as “Managed Access.” In 2008 the Belize Fisheries Department began working with EDF, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE), and other Belizean institutions to deploy two Managed Access pilot projects.
Motivated by the success of the projects, the Belizean government is committed to expanding Managed Access to nearly half its fishing grounds, setting the country on a course to comprehensively rebuild and conserve its fisheries and precious biodiversity. Read More