Monthly Archives: December 2009

New Study Supports Conservation Benefits of Catch Shares

RodFRod Fujita, Ph.D
Director, Ocean Innovations
Environmental Defense Fund

A new study released today (Essington, 2009) supports the results of other studies showing the benefits of catch share management in fisheries (Costello et al., 2008; Heal and Schlenker 2008).

The paper looks for a response in biomass, exploitation rate, discards, effort, compliance with catch targets and landings in 15 North American catch share fisheries.

The paper did not find that these catch share fisheries, on average, reduced overall landings or that they increased biomass.  That seems to be because most of these fisheries were not overfished–so the overall catch would not be expected to go down, and biomass would not be expected to increase, because these were not management goals.  To test the hypothesis that catch shares can rebuild depleted populations, it will be important to analyze depleted fisheries, over rebuilding time frames.  In this study, only one of the 8 fisheries that had explicit overfishing targets was substantially overfished.

The study did show that catch share fisheries moved landings, exploitation rates, and biomass levels closer to their targets, whether they were above or below the targets.  Since some of the fisheries were above and some were below, these changes averaged out, resulting in small net changes.  The exception was discard rate, which appears to have dropped by about 30% in the small number of fisheries examined. Read More »

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New NOAA policy an economic and conservation boost for Gulf fisheries

Red snapper on scaleThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) new catch share policy, which encourages the use of catch shares to manage fisheries, is exciting news for the Gulf of Mexico’s declining fisheries and struggling fishermen.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council deserves a pat on the back for already considering catch shares for some of its fisheries, and NOAA’s new policy can help jumpstart even more progress to end overfishing in all Gulf fisheries. Ending overfishing is good for Gulf economies and will give fishermen more time on the water.

The red snapper individual fishing quota (IFQ), one type of catch share, is wrapping up its third year, and we continue to see the tangible benefits of catch shares: commercial overfishing is ending, fishing businesses are more stable, and bycatch (accidentally-caught fish that must be thrown back in the water and often die) has been significantly reduced.

Other Gulf fisheries and sectors can benefit from catch shares too: Read More »

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South Atlantic Council Carefully Considers All Impacts of Red Snapper Regulations

The past few weeks have been big for Southeast fisheries.

  • Two weeks ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service passed an interim rule that will close red snapper fishing for 180 days starting Jan 4;
  • Last week, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council met in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina and approved measures (Amendment 17B) to end overfishing for nine species of snapper and grouper fish; and
  • Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its catch share policy, which will hopefully increase consideration of catch shares for our declining snapper-grouper fishery.

EileenonDocksWith all this going on, it is no wonder that last week’s Council meeting focused on red snapper.

Red snapper in the Southeast is said to have been overfished since the 1960s, but its cultural and economic value and lack of consensus on data are all reasons why the Council has yet to institute a rebuilding plan. But according to fishery laws, the Council must end overfishing of red snapper and other species. This has prompted a very close look at how to end overfishing of red snapper in a way that keeps as many fishermen on the water as possible.

Currently the Council is considering large area closures to end overfishing, but is still seeking new information – like red snapper mortality rates – that might further decrease the need for large closures.  The pursuit of this new information is likely to lead to delays in implementation of regulations to end red snapper overfishing, which is one reason the National Marine Fisheries Service took action to implement a red snapper interim rule. 

A huge amount of responsibility is put in the hands of Council members.  If regulations are too stringent, more fishermen will go out of business.  If regulations are too weak and do not end overfishing, the fishery will likely see future regulations that are even stricter and more devastating. 

Over the last year, I have heard impassioned pleas from commercial and for-hire fishermen and their families for the Council to consider how new regulations will impact their businesses and families.  This is an important concern and the Council is clearly considering business impacts in its deliberations on new regulations.

There is no magic answer for red snapper and other fish in trouble because all solutions will impact fishermen – commercial and recreational alike.  However, a catch share for red snapper and other snapper and grouper species will help keep fishermen on the water and fishermen’s profits up.  Plus, the Council can now look for technical, analytical, research and public outreach help from NOAA, via the agency’s new catch share policy, to help make this opportunity a reality.

As the Council makes a decision on red snapper and starts hearing more about how the early fishing season closures on vermillion, black sea bass, and other fish are negatively effecting individual profitability and the price of fish, I encourage them to consider a catch share to address accountability, improve data, and maintain a profitable fishery.

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EDF Applauds NOAA’s New Catch Share Policy and Introduces the Catch Shares Action Toolkit

Amanda Leland, Oceans Program - National Policy DirectorA policy released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) charts an historic new course for the nation’s fish stocks, giving hope for the recovery of struggling fishing communities and depleted fish resources. With the new policy, NOAA is seeking to correct decades of failed management that has resulted in economically-depressed, unsafe, and unsustainable fisheries around the country.

The policy promotes greater use of catch shares, and we at EDF applaud NOAA for promoting this innovative fisheries management approach proven to improve fishermen’s lives and livelihoods and restore fish populations. NOAA’s policy builds upon the significant work of fishermen, fishing communities, scientists, fishery managers, and conservationists to design and implement catch shares in fisheries around the country.

Catch shares work for fishermen and fish populations because they include science-based annual catch limits, accountability measures to ensure compliance with those limits, and effective enforcement. At the same time, catch shares give fishermen greater flexibility for how to run their businesses, which improves economic performance.

NOAA’s new policy does not mandate catch shares for fisheries but rather makes important changes in strategy and operations, providing incentives and support for fishery managers who pursue catch shares. In particular, the draft policy:

  • Promotes the consideration and adoption, where appropriate, of catch share programs in federal fisheries.
  • Removes technical and administrative impediments to catch shares.
  • Provides technical and other support to those regional fishery management councils that choose to pursue catch shares.
  • Enhances outreach, education and assistance to stakeholders.
  • Promotes the development of technical guidance on specific program design elements.
  • Supports adaptive management through new research and performance monitoring of catch share programs over time.

The policy has been released in draft form but will take effect immediately. NOAA will take public comments for the next 120 days.

Today, as NOAA announces their new policy, EDF introduces the Catch Shares Action Toolkit to provide a resource for supporters of catch shares and encourage them to take action by telling NOAA and others that catch shares fishery management is the right policy to protect and restore the public’s ocean fishery resources, and increase profitability, wages, and safety for fishermen.

The toolkit features videos of fishermen sharing their stories about the failures of the current management system and why they support catch shares programs. The toolkit also encourages catch share supporters to engage in the dialog about catch shares through commenting online to NOAA and news articles, spreading the word about the benefit of catch shares to their friends, and submitting their own stories.

Today over 50 federally-managed stocks are overfished or experiencing overfishing. Under current management, meeting a Congressionally-mandated deadline to end overfishing by 2011 will mean ever-shorter fishing seasons and long-term closures for many prized species which will have a devastating impact on coastal communities. Catch shares allow continued fishing even while fish stocks recover.

We encourage all catch share supporters and those who want to learn more about this solution for our struggling fisheries to visit our new Catch Shares Action Toolkit.

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Scientists Say Gulf Red Snapper May Be Making a Comeback

Red snapper (7)

Last week the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Science and Statistical Committee updated its regional red snapper stock assessment and found signs that the population, though not recovered, is finally beginning to make a comeback. There is work ahead and many unknowns remain, but this looks like great news for fishermen, local communities and the environment.

At its February meeting, the Council will likely increase the quantity of fish that fishermen are allowed to catch. Commercial fishermen working under a successful red snapper management plan called an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) will have a good chance to be rewarded with more fish next year (and beyond). This sector poses little risk because fishermen are living within their catch limits, they have reduced the number of fish that must be thrown overboard dying to comply with closed season and size limit regulations, and they follow strict monitoring and accountability rules. At the same time, IFQ management has helped fishermen improve and stabilize dockside prices, reduce the costs to harvest fish, and provide higher quality fish to consumers.

On the other hand, it is less certain how the recreational fishery will fare. This is because the sector’s management plan is not working and fails to help anglers abide by their scientifically-safe catch limit. Any potential change in the amount of fish a sector is allowed to bring to shore must account for such past and anticipated overharvests. Read More »

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Time to Clean up Hypocrisy and Mis-information in Catch Share debate
As originally printed on SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton – Dec 3, 2009.
Reprinted with permission.

Two editorials we print today against catch shares contain enough mis-information and hypocrisy that we felt compelled to set the record straight. Reading the Food and Water Watch editorial in the Portland Press Herald, or the editorial again slamming NMFS in today’s Gloucester Daily Times, you would think a conflagration is burning in New England against catch shares.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. The biggest issue causing consternation in the industry in New England is not catch shares, but whether blind adherence to bureaucratic procedures will doom the success of catch shares. About 97% of the fleet has signed on to sector programs, and they are focused on making them work.

Here is our attempt to set the record straight:

Huge errors in NMFS data

There have been repeated stories about how many errors exist in the NMFS catch history database, so that many boats are fishing on incorrect history, and have no opportunity to correct them until 2011. At the recent Council meeting, Pat Kurkul, NMFS regional administrator, said that out of 1480 eligible histories, only 66 have been challenged. This is far fewer than NMFS expected. As a result, they are able to have individual discussions with each person challenging their history.

On the other hand, if you don’t own the permit yourself, there is no way to challenge the history, so if you had been leasing a permit, it is the owner of the permit who is responsible for making any challenge. Therefore it is quite likely that there are additional vessels using leased permits where the lease holder thinks the history is inaccurate, but the owner either does not have the records or has left the fishery, and will not challenge the allocation. But in either case, the number of errors and challenges is not nearly as large as some would want you to believe. Read More »

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