Selected tag(s): Sustainable Seafood

EDF on the Radio: The California Fisheries Fund Helps West Coast Fishermen

CFF Director, Phoebe Higgins with Steve Fitz, a loan recipient

Last week, Phoebe Higgins, Director of our California Fisheries Fund, appeared on the John Young KUIC Hometown Morning show to discuss the productive work the fund is doing to help West Coast fishermen finance their transition to more sustainable fishing practices, improve the profitability of their fishing businesses and provide seafood consumers with the fresh and sustainably caught fish that they love.

Phoebe also discussed with John a new sustainable management program that is helping fishermen on the West Coast grow their fishing operations as well as allowing fish populations to rebound.  The Fund coupled with the Pacific Groundfish catch share program, is helping to maintain and grow California’s highly-valued ocean economy —worth $43 billion and contributing more than 474,000 jobs to the state. Fishermen have more time to fish carefully which improves their safety and dramatically reduces the amount of bycatch and discarded fish. In turn, fishermen are able to bring in higher quality fish to seafood consumers and market their fish at higher prices.

Listen to Phoebe discuss the California Fisheries Fund project and catch share programs on the show and see how one fisherman is benefitting from his loan.

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McDonald’s to Use Eco-Labeled Fish: We’re Lovin’ It

McDonald's Filet O Fish Made from Alaskan Pollock

A McDonald’s Filet o Fish sandwich, made from Alaskan Pollock. Photo from McDonald’s

Recently, McDonald’s USA announced that it would become the first national restaurant chain to serve fish sporting an eco-label from the Marine Stewardship Council at all of its locations across the country. The new label will make its debut in conjunction with the launch of the restaurant’s new Fish McBites next month, although it’s already selling MSC-certified wild-caught Alaska pollock in its fish filet sandwiches and has been using certified fish in the US since 2005.

According to the Chicago Tribune, McDonald’s audits its fish supply to ensure both sustainability and traceability – the ability to trace the fish all the way through the supply chain from the restaurant back to the fishery. As one of the largest buyers of fish in the United States, McDonald’s decision to promote sustainable fish in its marketing and sales will help raise the visibility of this issue and the ability of consumers to choose sustainably caught fish over those that continue to be overfished.

The Alaskan pollock fishery has one of the strongest catch share management programs in the country, which has resulted in a halt to overfishing. The management program also provides for 100% monitoring, which leads to excellent data collection, allowing fishery managers to track compliance with quotas, record bycatch, assess habitat and ecosystem impacts, and generally improve the conservation and management of marine resources in Alaska. Read More »

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Greenwire E&E: Loan program that supports Calif. fishing industry wins sustainability award

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net. 202-628-6500

Laura Petersen, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A loan program dedicated to helping West Coast fisheries become more sustainable earned California’s top environmental honor.

The California Fisheries Fund received the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, which recognizes individuals, organizations and businesses for finding innovative ways to protect natural resources while also strengthening the economy.

“It fits perfectly into the kind of themes the governor has chosen to promote,” said Jim Marxen, a spokesman for the California Environmental Protection Agency, which handed out 17 awards last night. “Good environmental practices and a healthy economy must live together, and really this project is an epitome of that.”

The $4 million fund, which began in 2008 with support from the state and foundations, provides loans to fishermen, processors and distributors to finance upgrades that result in more sustainable practices.For example, fisherman Steve Fitz recently received a loan to purchase his uncle’s boat and continue the family tradition of using Scottish seine fishing gear, which herds ground fish into light nets that are far gentler on the surrounding habitat and reduces bycatch of other marine life.

“Money isn’t that readily available to borrow in our industry,” said Fitz, who works in Half Moon Bay. “Having access to the fisheries fund … allowed it to become a reality. Here I am, a new vessel owner.”

The fund, which is administered by the Environmental Defense Fund, has distributed $1.7 million to 11 recipients to date. Read More »

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EDF Wins Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award for California Fisheries Fund

Environmental Defense Fund was awarded California’s highest environmental honor by Governor Jerry Brown at a ceremony last night for our creation of the California Fisheries Fund (CFF). The CFF, the first fisheries-specific loan fund in California and most comprehensive in the United States, provides capital to fishermen, fishing businesses and communities who are dedicated to safeguarding the environment, their fishery’s profitability and the greater oceans economy.

The award ceremony was hosted by California EPA in Sacramento, California. During his remarks, California EPA secretary Matthew Rodriguez said that the “entities that we’re recognizing tonight are really showing us the way forward. Their unique approach shows how, given a challenge, California businesses, nonprofit organizations and businesses can really rise to the occasion.”

There can be many business challenges for fishermen to transition to more environmentally-friendly fishing practices but with the California Fisheries Fund, we’re removing roadblocks and helping fishermen continue on the path to fishing sustainably and profitably.

So far, we have awarded fourteen loans totaling nearly $1.7 million to eleven borrowers including fishermen, fishing businesses and communities. Most recently, we closed a loan to Steve Fitz, a Half Moon Bay fisherman who attended the award ceremony with us.. Steve’s CFF loan allowed him to buy his boat from his uncle and carry on his family’s sustainable fishing legacy—operating the only commercial fishing operation in the nation that uses Scottish Seine gear. The most eco-friendly way to catch flatfish like Petrale sole and sand dabs, Scottish Seine gear consists of lines which gently guide fish into the path of light-weight nets. Unlike some other types of fishing techniques, Scottish Seine doesn’t use heavy gear that drags along the ocean floor. Read More »

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EDF’s Tim Fitzgerald Appears on the Kojo Namdi Show to Talk Bluefin Tuna and Sustainable Sushi

Tim Fitzgerald, EDF Senior Oceans Policy Specialist

Tim Fitzgerald, EDF Senior Oceans Policy Specialist

Yesterday, Tim Fitzgerald, EDF’s Senior Oceans Policy Specialist and Marine Scientist who leads our sustainable seafood work, appeared on the Kojo Namdi Show with Casson Trenor to discuss sustainable sushi and ask the question to listeners, “how well do you know your sushi?”

With the recent defeat of a proposed ban by the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species on the export of the overfished Atlantic bluefin tuna, how to make responsible choices at the sushi bar is a timely discussion. Japan imports approximately 80 percent of the world’s bluefin tuna to satisfy the country’s love of this prized fish for sushi, which can sell for more than $150,000 per fish, so their ardent opposition to the ban was no surprise. 

Aside from bluefin tuna, other species of fish used for sushi are also unsustainably sourced. Tim and Casson went on to discuss with Kojo and the audience that while it’s helpful for restaurant owners and consumers to be knowledgeable about the best fish to select, real success in restoring overfished species will occur from industry change and effective fisheries management. Listen to the show.

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Alaska Pollock Remains Good Seafood Choice Despite Current Challenges

Today the Monterey Bay Aquarium – with whom Environmental Defense Fund partners on its Seafood Selector – updated its popular Seafood Watch pocket guides. A number of new and revised rankings were part of the update, including the first-ever farmed salmon to reach the ‘Green’ (Best Choice) list.

Perhaps the most notable new ranking is for Alaska pollock, which was moved from ‘Green’ (Best Choice) to ‘Yellow’ (Good Alternative). If you’ve never heard of pollock, it’s related to cod and is actually the fourth most popular seafood item in America. It’s the whitefish used in fish sticks, fish filet sandwiches, and surimi (imitation crab meat). Pollock is the largest fishery in the United States (and the largest food-fish fishery in the world), with annual catches averaging two billion pounds.

Some people may interpret the ‘Good Alternative’ ranking to mean that the Alaska pollock is no longer sustainable. Rather, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s new report, which took more than a year to write, highlights some environmental challenges facing the fishery, but ultimately concludes that pollock is still a good choice for both seafood consumers and businesses. (This fact was confirmed yesterday when the pollock fishery was recommended for re-certification to the Marine Stewardship Council).

Here’s a brief outline of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s findings:

1. Pollock biology
The good news: Pollock mature quickly, are short-lived and reproduce often, making them resilient to fishing pressure. Important spawning areas are also off-limits to fishing.

2. Status of pollock stocks
The good news: pollock populations are not overfished, and are still considered healthy;
The bad news: they have steadily declined from all-time highs earlier this decade. The stock is also influenced by changing environmental conditions, and climate change is affecting the Bering Sea faster than many other places on Earth.
Outlook: Fishing quotas have been reduced in each of the last four years to account for less pollock, and the latest projections show the stock rebounding by 2012.

3. Bycatch
The good news: the pollock fishery is one of the ‘cleanest’ – averaging less than 1% bycatch relative to overall catch.
The bad news: bycatch of chinook salmon – a commercially and culturally important species in coastal Alaskan communities – steadily increased from 2001-2007, peaking at 120,000 fish.
Outlook: the pollock industry instituted a voluntary bycatch avoidance program in 2008 that helped reduce salmon bycatch by more than 80% in just two years. Additional regulations are scheduled to go into effect in 2011.

4. Habitat & ecosystem impacts
The good news: the latest government study concluded that groundfish fisheries (including pollock) have only minimal and temporary impacts on the Bering Sea floor.
The bad news: the study also showed that midwater pollock trawls contact the bottom more than originally thought (~44% of the time), which reduces sensitive habitat features in parts of the Bering Sea. There are also concerns about the effect of the fishery on Steller sea lions and northern fur seals.
Outlook: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has closed sensitive areas to pollock fishing in an effort to protect bottom habitats and important marine mammal sites. Additionally, new science will continue to identify sensitive areas in need of protection.
5. Management
The good news: the pollock fishery is managed by one of the strongest catch share management systems in the world. It is well-equipped to tackle conservation challenges quickly and effectively, and features a number of characteristics shared by few others:

  • The pollock fleet regularly catches less than their quota, meaning that in many years, they intentionally leave millions of pounds of fish in the water;
  • The North Pacific Council has set the Total Allowable Catch at or below the levels recommended by its scientific advisory body every year since 1977;
  • Most pollock vessels have 100% observer coverage – which is paid for by industry – minimizing the government’s cost to effectively manage this fishery;
  • The cooperative nature of the pollock fleet means they can share information and respond to environmental issues – such as salmon bycatch – in real-time (as opposed to the slower nature of the Council process);
  • The pollock management plan features a number of protections for the marine ecosystem at-large, including a provision to ensure that pollock populations are large enough to provide adequate food for marine mammals and other predators;
  • The management system and the pollock industry cooperatively collect an unprecedented amount of scientific information about the fishery and the marine ecosystem. These data are used for stock assessments, monitoring quotas and bycatch, assessing habitat and ecosystem impacts, and improving the conservation and management of marine resources in Alaska.

The bottom line is that pollock remains a sustainable seafood choice for both consumers and businesses. The fishery has demonstrated unparalleled sustainability leadership in the past and is well-positioned to address new environmental issues. Their innovative catch share management system is more responsive than conventional approaches, meaning they can identify and address issues as they arise (as opposed to most fisheries, which often find out once it’s too late). Finally, all Monterey Bay Aquarium and Environmental Defense Fund seafood rankings are updated as new information emerges, meaning any changes in the pollock fishery will quickly be reflected in future assessments.

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