Monthly Archives: November 2009

EDF Staff Back From Cuba

For decades a political gulf has separated the United States and Cuba.  Last week, scientists and conservationists from the US and Cuba met in Havana to discuss a gulf that brings the two countries together—the Gulf of Mexico.  Early in the week, EDF staff met with colleagues from the US, Cuba and Mexico to develop a variety of cooperative projects to restore depleted shark populations, protect shallow and deepwater coral reefs, and manage vulnerable coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrasses. 


Photo by Tony Zelenoff

This tri-national meeting, organized by our colleagues at the Cuban environmental ministry and the US-based NGO 1Planet1Ocean, was the third in a series of meetings in which scientists from the three countries have exchanged science and ideas for restoring marine resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

Later in the week, EDF and Cuban experts hosted a workshop on how marine protected areas and innovative fisheries management tools, like catch shares, can be used together to restore important ocean fish populations. I greatly appreciate the warm welcome we have consistently received from our colleagues in Cuba. They deserve great credit for making this collaboration work. It is clear that greater cooperation on environmental protection in the Gulf of Mexico has real potential to bridge the political gulf that still exists between Cuba and the US.

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Insightful Articles on New England Sectors

Julie Wormser, NE Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.Two very thoughtful articles came out of New England earlier this week, both talking about the current difficulties groundfish fishermen are having in staying afloat financially under the current fisheries management system (1, 2). Both pieces make the case that it is not catch shares but low catch limits (i.e., not enough fish to go around) that is causing such hardship, and that sectors provide fishermen with a better chance to stay solvent while fisheries recover. 
I have consistently found John Sackton of and John Richardson of the Portland Press Herald to be two of the most nuanced, insightful reporters covering the New England fishing industry.  They have each clearly been writing about this for years, care about what happens, and provide a perspective and context to current events that move my understanding forward.

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Kate Bonzon Responds to the Pew Catch Share Report

Kate Bonzon, EDF Director of Design Advisory ServicesI was hoping the Pew Environment Group’s new report, Design Matters: Making Catch Shares Work would provide some good information about how to design catch shares, but instead I found it over-simplistic,  somewhat confusing and lacking any new insight into catch shares and effective design.  Just about everyone agrees that catch shares can and should be designed for the unique needs of fisheries and the communities that depend on them. 

EDF has been working on catch share design for years, and recently released a 100+ page draft of a Catch Shares Design Manual that outlines a roadmap for designing catch shares based on experience from around the world.  (After an open peer review is done, we’ll finalize the manual.)  I agree with the title of Pew’s report.  Design of catch shares does matter.  It matters a lot. 

The overall feeling I left with was that Pew is comparing catch shares to an ideal world that doesn’t exist rather than to the reality of current management.  The report identified many issues that traditional management hasn’t solved, and makes the case that catch shares should solve all of those problems. 

The good news is that catch shares generally do make progress on those problems—and as they are adjusted over time they get even better.  These include setting an accurate, science-based cap, establishing an appropriate monitoring and enforcement program, managing multiple species, reducing bycatch and habitat destruction, and compensating fishermen who are caught in a system that has led to over-capitalization.

Pew is right that these are tough problems for fisheries, but they neglect to mention that catch shares are better at achieving positive outcomes than nearly any other management approach currently in use.  For example, Pew says:

“In some fisheries, improvements were more likely the result of hard TAC limits than an IFQ system.” 

What they failed to mention is that not only are catch share fisheries more likely to have a hard catch limit, but fishermen are also far more likely to stay within the identified catch limits.  And, the science behind those catch limits is also dramatically better than it was before catch shares were implemented.  In short, catch shares lead to more accurate science-based catch limits and fishermen who come in below catch limits, 5% on average

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