Monthly Archives: July 2010

Catch Share Design Case Study: Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Pilot Conservation Cooperation

Catch Share ConversationsOur last case study in this week’s Catch Share Conversation about harvesting cooperatives comes from the Gulf of Alaska. In 2007, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council implemented a five year pilot cooperative program in the commercial sector of the Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Fishery. The program was designed to address problems of overcapacity and derby fishing and to meet various additional goals. After three years, the pilot program is meeting its goals of ending the race for fish, improving product quality, protecting shore plants and communities, and decreasing bycatch and discards.

Alaska OutlinePrior to cooperative formation, the fishery was plagued by problems due to traditional management approaches including overcapitalization, shrinking fishing seasons, decreased safety and poor product quality. The fishing season shrunk to a dismal derby-filled three weeks. Read the full case study of how the Rockfish cooperative combines a number of design features to meet their goals including shares for target and bycatch species, provisions for new entrants, limitations on trading and more.

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Catch Share Design Case Study: Chile’s Area-based Cooperatives

Catch Share ConversationsChile, on the Pacific side of South America, enjoys one of the most productive upwelling ecosystems in the world (the Greater Humboldt Current Marine Ecosystem) along much of its 2,500+ mile coastline. Around two percent of the labor force, or over 120,000 people, are employed in the fishing industry including artisanal and industrial fishermen and aquaculturists.

Chile has a well-developed system of area-based cooperatives, known as Territorial User Rights Fisheries (TURFs) or Management and Exploitation Areas for Benthic Resources (MEABRs). The system was primarily developed to manage “loco” (Concholepas concholepas), Chile’s most economically important benthic artisanal resource. Loco may only be fished by members of the area-based cooperatives and exclusive access of over 100,000 hectares has been granted to groups of artisanal fishermen (called guild associations, unions or cooperatives). 

All other species found in the TURF,except those declared as fully exploited, can be extracted by cooperative members if the species are included in the fishery management plan developed by their cooperative.3 At least 63 species including molluscs, algae, crustaceans, finfish and other invertebrates are landed under the Chilean area-based cooperative system.

Take a look at the full case study of Chile’s Area-Based Cooperatives, a part of our Catch Share Conversations series, to learn more about the cooperatives’ history, performance, and key design features.

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Catch Share Design Case Study: The Pollock Conservation Cooperative

Catch Share ConversationsIn continuing with our look at harvesting cooperatives as a part of our Catch Share Conversations series, the Pollock Conservation Cooperative in Alaska’s Bering Sea shows a good example of how a cooperative form of catch share can lead to conservation and economic benefits for fisheries.

The Pollock Conservation Cooperative (PCC) was established in 1999 and is made up of six member companies operating 19 catch-processor vessels. As an industry led initiative, the PCC is used to coordinate harvesting activities that promote conservation of fish stocks and better utilization of landed fish. The PCC has resulted in slower paced pollock fishing, a longer season – from 74 days in 1998 to 285 days in 2009, and 50 percent more product per pound of fish landed.

Read the CSC Pollock Conservation Cooperative of the Pollock Conservation Cooperative to learn more about its history, performance, and key design features.

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Want to Help California’s Economy? Eat a Lobster.

Next time you’re lucky enough to crack open a lobster, consider this: you may be doing your part to stimulate California’s economy.

Lobster fishing in California takes place from October to March in Southern California— from Point Conception around Santa Barbara to the Mexican border. Business has been solid in recent years: 728,000 pounds of lobster were landed in the 2008-09 season by the state’s 200-plus commercial lobster fishermen.  Sales to local markets, as well as Asia, generated about $8 million in economic activity.

But looming threats exist to lobstermen’s livelihoods. As The San Diego Union Tribune recently reported, “In coming months, state officials plan to expand a set of marine reserves under the Marine Life Protection Act that likely will shut down vast tracts of coastline to lobster fishing, including a prime spot off the coast of La Jolla, that will take away about 20 percent of the state’s lobster catch.”

Protected areas are critical to the state’s fisheries, as they allow species to survive and thrive.  In many cases, these protected areas increase the amount of seafood that can eventually be harvested along the coast.  At the same time, these protected areas and changing rules mean that fisheries have to update the way that they manage themselves.  Scientific monitoring of species and new management techniques are needed to allow both fishermen and the environment to thrive.  But then questions arise over how to fund the new science and management reforms in a fragile economy.

This is where the creativity of the lobstermen comes in:

California’s government is cash-strapped and the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), while prioritizing the lobster fishery, doesn’t have the money to advance management reforms.  Lobstermen have stepped up with a unique approach that starts to build funding for improvements.   They’ve asked the state to form a private-public partnership to create rules that will protect lobster populations while improving the economies of California’s coastal fishing communities.

The California Lobster and Trap Fishermen’s Association, environmentalists and Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego) have teamed up to propose an annual $300 fee on holders of the state’s 204 lobster fishing permits. This annual fee amounts to about 14 lobsters per fisherman (give or take).  Resulting revenues would go directly into a fund to make improvements to the fisheries that fishermen and DFG prioritize.  The legislation – AB 408 – has passed the Assembly and is awaiting Senate action.

Lobster fishermen are hoping their offer to fund a piece of what’s needed for better science and management will attract money from other sources such as the state Ocean Protection Council and the California Fisheries Fund (CFF), a philanthropic revolving-loan fund that lends money to fishing communities to improve fishing sustainability. Since CFF makes loans, not grants, it requires borrowers to prove an income stream, which is just what the $300 annual fee would help create.

As we’ve argued in EDF’s California Dream 2.0 blog, California can lead the way with new approaches to protect the environment while growing our economy.  AB 408 is such a ‘win-win’ idea, empowering lobstermen to improve the marine environment while improving their industry’s bottom line.  Lobstermen won’t be able to fund the necessary improvements alone, but their willingness to put skin in the game will encourage other funders to see this industry offer for what it is: a sustainable way to manage its lobster fishery, help fishing communities thrive and protect the ocean.

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How Alaska’s Crab Fishery Went from Deadliest Catch to Safest Catch

Reprinted with permission from (July 23, 2010)

A new study by the Anchorage-based National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) details 504 fishing-industry deaths from 2000 through 2009. Shrimp fishing in the Gulf of Mexico was by far the most deadly fishery with 55 lives lost. That compares to a death toll of 12 Bering Sea crabbers during the same time. In fact, the Bering Sea crab fisheries can claim the lowest loss of life for all of Alaska’s major fisheries.

Since 2005, when the crab fishery began operating under a slower paced catch share system, one life has been lost in the Bering Sea; there have been no vessel sinkings.

Prior to catch shares, hundreds of boats would race to load up with Bering Sea crab in wild winter fisheries lasting mere days or weeks. Now, each vessel has a set amount of crabs to catch during extended seasons.

The improved safety is ‘black and white,’ said veteran crabber Bill Prout of Kodiak. ‘It’s so much better. We can wait for good weather. It’s really paying off in saved lives.’

Third generation crabber Lance Farr of Seattle said sleep deprivation is no longer an issue in the famous crab fisheries. ‘The catch share program has done what it was intended to do,’ Farr said. ‘It’s made it safer.’

Longtime crab skipper Kale Garcia agreed. ‘I know we’ll have to keep all the drama for Hollywood, but the reality is the Bering Sea crabbers have gone from the deadliest catch to the safest catch.’

The Bering Sea crab fleet is also more organized, having established an association, called the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, an alliance that represents all crab fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and they have a website at

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Catch Share Conversations: A look at Catch Share Design Options — Harvesting Cooperatives

Catch Share ConversationsOnce managers and fishermen decide to implement a catch share program, the next critical step in achieving the conservation, economic and social goals of the fishery is to effectively design the catch share program. Catch shares management is not a one-size-fits-all approach; rather programs are designed to meet the specific needs and goals of each fishery. From determining who holds the allocation privilege to how shares or quota are allocated to whether or not allocation is transferable, there are many factors to consider along the way of designing an effective catch share management system.

Our new monthly EDFish series, Catch Share Conversations, takes a look at some of these decision points or conversations in the design process. This month we offer a look at harvesting cooperatives, which have a variety of benefits and some challenges.

In harvesting cooperatives, groups of organized fishery participants jointly manage secure and exclusive access to the fishery. In return for this privilege, cooperatives are accountable for operating a sustainable fishery within the scientifically determined catch limit and/or dedicated area. Examples of cooperatives include the New England groundfish sectors program and the Bering Sea’s Pollock Conservation Cooperative.

You can read our Catch Share Conversations Backgrounder for a deeper look at harvesting cooperatives. In the next few days on EDFish, we’ll also share three specific case studies of cooperative-based catch shares.

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