Monthly Archives: June 2009

New Decisions Make Pacific Groundfish More Grounded

Trawl boat on the water.Just last week our fisheries policy guru, Shems Jud, attended the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Spokane, WA.  After a six year process, this meeting was the last opportunity for the Council to develop and decide on unfinalized components of the Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) or catch share program for the trawl sector of the Pacific Groundfish fishery.

A few positive highlights to report from the meeting:

  • Most importantly, implementation of the program will not be pushed back and is still on track for the target date of January 1, 2011.
  • The precedent-setting Adaptive Management Program (AMP), a tool that promotes social, economic and conservation goals by pro-actively dedicating ten percent of the fish quota to a “public trust” like pool, will be implemented in year three of the program.
  • The carry over provision—which works like a cell phone plan’s roll-over minutes, but for your fish quota—will remain in the fishery’s management plan.

The program is nearing the finish line now after more than a five year stakeholder design process. Last November, the Council made a historic decision by voting unanimously for a catch share management system in the groundfish trawl sector, one of the four major sectors of the fishery.  Instead of managing just a single stock, this complex catch share will manage the largest number of species of any fishery in the U.S.  In addition, there are unprecedented features to the program, including the AMP and providing for fishermen to fish their quota using other gear types.

Next Steps?  NMFS still has to draft a regulatory package that lays out the specifics about how the catch share will actually work.  This proposal will be reviewed by the Council in September in a process called “deeming”.  In the coming year, the three West Coast states will work with NMFS on making sure the new infrastructure and staffing are in place in preparation for the fishery to transform to catch shares on time by 2011.  And finally, this landmark decision will need the signature of Gary Locke, the Secretary of Commerce.

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New England Fishery Management Council Votes Unanimously for “Sector” Catch Shares

Julie Wormser is the New England regional director for Environmental Defense Fund’s Oceans program.

Yesterday represented both a figurative and literal sea change in the way New England groundfish stocks will be managed.  Not only did the council vote to move the fishery toward a fishing cooperative-based catch share system called “sectors,”  each of the major issues was decided by a wide majority, representing a new consensus.  The final vote to approve 19 sectors to fish under a New England-designed catch share system was unanimous.  Other key votes included:

  • Significantly increasing random dockside monitoring of the fleet to 50% in 2010, dropping to 20% in subsequent years,
  • Putting a “hard” total allowable catch limit both on sector participants (in 2010) and on non-sector participants still fishing under days-at-sea (in 2012)
  • Opening up “rolling closure” areas to sector participants that had been closed as effort controls.  Areas closed to protect cod spawning aggregations will remain off limits.
  • The allocation formula that translates current fishing permits to sector allocations was based solely on catch history, with an adjustment to keep the allocation formula for cod for the two existing Cape Cod sectors intact.

The meeting was marked not by drama but by legitimate debate about what decisions were the “fairest” to fishermen and what controls were needed to make the new system work.  Speakers from the council and the audience alike repeated the sobering fact that there are not enough fish to go around and that the decision to go to sectors represented the best way forward for a struggling industry and resource.  Council members worked hard and constructively to set the oldest commercial fishery in the United States on the right track.

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Today’s Boston Globe Editorial Captures the Moment

Julie is the New England regional director for Environmental Defense Fund’s Oceans program.

Julie Wormser, NE Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.Today’s lead editorial in the Boston Globe captures the urgency of this moment in New England as the region’s Fishery Management Council votes this week on a new catch share system.  It’s a tense time for New England fishermen.  Many are facing the biggest change in fishing management in their lives.  On top of that, they’ve been stressed for years by declining stocks and rules that made it difficult to turn a profit.  The “catch shares” that the council is expected to approve are the best chance to turn this situation around.  There’s plenty of more work ahead but the federal government is putting up to $35m on the table to help fishermen pay for the first two years of this transition.

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EDF Co-Sponsors Workgroup on Marine Data Collection and Analysis

Kristen Honey is a Stanford Doctoral Candidate and the current Lorry Lokey Fellow at EDF.

An observer on a fishing boat documenting amount of catchEffective and efficient fisheries management is often limited by available information and the high cost of marine data collection and analysis. Regardless of information gaps, management decisions still need to be made. Common challenges exist because too little is known about fish populations and their dynamics, the spatial distribution of fishing harvest, or monitoring and enforcement of regulatory standards.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation co-sponsored a 3-day workshop at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) in June 2009 on novel analytical approaches to meet these challenges. The workshop, entitled “Analytic Innovations in Minimum Information Fisheries Management”, convened 25 experts from around the world to present and discuss innovative research related to challenges in fisheries management.

Workshop organizers included Chris Costello, Steve Gaines, and Sarah Lester from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). The efforts of this workgroup build on prior collaboration and work with the team at UCSB, including Costello and Gaines, who co-authored a study on the viability of catch share programs for halting or reversing fisheries decline.

On behalf of EDF, Diane Regas (DC), Kristen Honey (SF), and Dick Allen (consultant) joined the working group. Collectively, there was a blend of resource economists, marine ecologists, fishery scientists, and applied practitioners (full participant list).

The NCEAS workgroup highlighted applied solutions for fisheries managers, particularly for regions with limited access to fisheries data. Workshop participants discussed recent advances in fisheries management with information constraints. Discussions and individual presentations covered a variety of topics with special emphasis on: 1) spatial management approaches, 2) incentive-based management, 3) stock assessment and management under uncertainty, and 4) multi-species management.

EDF is currently following-up on the workshop’s outcomes, in collaboration with UCSB partners, and we aim to ensure that outcomes are shared widely for improved on-the-ground fisheries reform. Future work may potentially involve a second follow-up meeting for the workgroup and scientific talks on these topics at the 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting. Contact Kristen Honey at khoney [at] for additional information.

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New York Times Editorial on Catch Shares

Tom Lalley, EDF Oceans Marketing & Communications DirectorWe woke this morning to a fantastic editorial on catch shares.  It says that “fisheries almost everywhere could use a change in direction. A well-managed American system would be an example for the world. ”  EDF is working to make catch shares the management and performance standard for America’s fisheries and this editorial indicates that there is now significant momemtum in that direction.

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The Transition to Catch Shares in New England: EDF’s Julie Wormser on WBUR Radio Boston

Julie Wormser, NE Regional Director of EDF Oceans ProgramEarlier today, Julie Wormser – EDF Oceans’ regional director in New England, appeared on WBUR’s Radio Boston show to discuss next week’s New England Fishery Council vote on whether or not to transition the region’s groundfish fishery to sector catch shares management.  Explaining how catch shares work and answering tough questions from the host and listeners, Julie made the case for how catch shares are an effective way to manage a public resource in a way that rebuilds fish stocks and economically benefits fishermen. Listen to the full show online.

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