Monthly Archives: July 2009

High Country News Reports on the Successes and Challenges of Catch Shares

Diane Regas is Associate Vice President for EDFThe latest issue of High Country News has a good story on one type of catch share program—for crab in Alaska. I found Matt Jenkins’ take on catch shares balanced and engaging—he covers the benefits of catch shares and fairly points out some of the challenges this fishery has faced.

Among Alaska crab fishermen, safety, economic stability and resource sustainability have all improved. And while crew pay has doubled, there are fewer crew jobs than there were. Jenkins also explains why crew members are finding it is a lot harder to work their way up from deckhand to captaining their own boat. (Some of the design mistakes in the crab program, I am glad to say, are not allowed under the current fisheries law.)

The good news is that well-designed catch shares have been and can be designed to protect community and crew interests too. The red snapper catch share in the Gulf of Mexico and the halibut and sablefish catch share in Alaska are good examples of how catch shares have improved economics and resource sustainability while at the same time enhancing the stability of fishing communities. 

And other new ideas are being tried out across the country, including limiting consolidation, devoting a part of the quota to conservation or to address community concerns, creating community quota banks, and creating loan funds that can help keep quota in local communities. (Interestingly, the design of the crab program was determined by a special Act of Congress which helped lock in some serious problems—and the design did not include some of these creative options.)

Catch shares are already proving that they can end the race for fish and prevent – and even reverse – the global collapse of fisheries.  Catch shares present a new opportunity for fisheries at a time when many ocean fisheries and the communities that depend on them face a steep decline. As more fisheries move to catch shares, careful and creative design solutions will help improve catch shares for all the stakeholders.

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Restaurants and Community Working for Sustainable Fisheries Policy

groupshotcompressed.jpgIt isn’t often that a neighborhood restaurant wades into complex policy discussions about fisheries management, so kudos to Bob Klein of the traditional Italian restaurant Oliveto’s in Oakland for hosting a Fisheries Forum on Saturday.  The restaurant not only serves delicious, sustainable seafood – it’s also willing to go the extra mile to help educate its customers and the wider community of the importance, challenges, and opportunities of fisheries management.

EDF’s marine ecologist Rod Fujita and Pacific Ocean program director Johanna Thomas were invited to be panel participants, along with Erika Feller of The Nature Conservancy, Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Larry Collins, a crab fisherman from the San Francisco Bay Area. The panel was moderated by Ed Ueber, a former manager of the Cordell Bank Marine Sanctuary.

About 30 people showed up at Oliveto’s to learn about the potential of catch share programs – like the recently approved West Coast groundfish IFQ — and community fishing associations – like the innovative Cape Cod Hook Association —  to improve the economics and sustainability of fishing along the Pacific coast. Following the panel discussion, participants were treated to an amazing Italian Riviera-style fisherman’s stew comprised of all local fish-rockfish, squid, and clams – with wild fennel pollen, saffron, and olives.

Bravo to Oliveto’s and all the participants for their commitment to providing fresh, local, delicious and sustainable seafood from the Bay Area and the California Coast. Hopefully the good meal and good discussions were the beginning of a fresh dialogue, as we all have a stake in preserving California’s rich fishing communities.

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A Cautionary Tale About the New Study from Ecotrust Canada

bc_074sm.jpgI just read A Cautionary Tale About ITQ’s in BC Fisheries by Ecotrust Canada.  What struck me most is that we seem to be moving beyond the debate about whether catch shares provide conservation benefits.  It’s clear that they do.

In the paper, Ecotrust affirms the conservation benefits of ITQs, Individual Transferable Quotas, one form of a catch share:

“[ITQs] make fishermen responsible for keeping within an individual catch limit thereby ensuring that the entire fleet stays within a strict TAC [total allowable catch].” 

The article goes on to say that, for this reason, ITQs have been good for conservation.   It also says that ITQs can increase the economic performance of a fishery.

As catch shares become more common, a close look at particular aspects of catch share design can help create a healthy dialogue about how best to fine-tune the programs.  We should aim to optimize conservation benefits while ensuring the highest possible benefits for fishing communities.

bc_058sm.jpgEcotrust highlights that catch shares have led to increases in the value of fisheries.  Significant societal benefits are associated with these changes, including providing fishermen and crew with more stable jobs; providing opportunities for creative business innovations; more highly valued seafood; and increased investment in modernizing fishing boats and gear.  However, Ecotrust focuses on the economic impacts on a specific group of stakeholders in fisheries:  primarily fishing crews.  Ecotrust’s central complaint is that the practice of leasing quota share disadvantages British Columbia fishing crews, compared to share owners or other stakeholders.

The design of any fishing regulation should be as fair as possible with regard to participation by all of society in the economic upside of well-managed fisheries.  Most unfair of all would be to continue managing our fisheries on an unsustainable course.

The paper points to specific solutions to the concern of fairness in catch shares: including community hold backs, direct community allocations, owner-on-board requirements, territorial use rights and other mechanisms.  EDF has advocated and even pioneered these types of tools in past and current catch share design processes.  Our goal, which we share with Ecotrust and many other fishery stakeholders, is to maximize the positive socio-economic outcomes and minimize the negative ones — once conservation performance is assured.

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Dr. Jane Lubchenco Offers ‘Grand Challenge to the Nation’

It was great to read Dr. Lubchenco’s positive message for the future of ocean resources in an article in The New Bedford Standard-Times today, but it’s also a good reality check to hear her challenge to the nation to fix systemic problems with our fishery management system.  As Dr. Lubchenco points out, moving to catch shares based management is not easy, but the costs of a well-designed catch share system are small in comparison to the long term benefits in economic and biological terms.

Posted in New England / Comments are closed Suggests Seafood Buyers Consider Catch Shares for Sustainability

Lisa Duchene, SeafoodSource’s contributing editor, shared her commentary a few days ago with the publication’s audience of commercial seafood buyers. “Does your sustainable seafood purchasing policy address ‘catch shares?’ Maybe it should,” writes Duchene.

Of course, EDF agrees. Quoting the critical study by Christopher Costello and Steven Gaines published in the journal Science, Duchene states the facts pointing toward well-designed catch shares as the sustainable solution to rebuilding our nation’s fish stocks.

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EDF Participates in Environment and Development Convention in Cuba

Three fishermen, El Malecón, Havana, Cuba: Photo by MissMass ( week, EDF’s Dan Whittle and Denise Stetten attended and presented at the 7th International Convention on Environment and Development in Havana, Cuba. The convention brought together scientists, government officials, entrepreneurs, NGOs, and others to discuss solutions to various issues, including environmental education, protected areas, environmental management, ecosystems and biodiversity management, and climate change.

Dan Whittle, EDF’s project director on Cuba, participated in the convention’s colloquium on environmental law, which focused on public participation in environmental decision-making. He also gave a presentation entitled “Shared Ecosystems: Opportunities for Increasing Environmental Cooperation and Collaboration,” in which Dan emphasized that partnerships between U.S. and Cuban scientists, NGOs, and government agencies can result in the production of better information that in turn should result in better policies and decisions.

Denise Stetten, Latin America program manager at EDF, also participated in the conference and worked with our Cuban partners on an assessment of coastal conservation in Cuba.

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