Monthly Archives: December 2010

New Study Finds Crew in Bering Sea Crab Fisheries Benefitted from Catch Shares

Guest blogger, Joshua Abbott, is an Assistant Professor in Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability. Abbott is an expert in environmental and natural resource economics, including fisheries economics and policy.

Joshua Abbott, Assistant Professor, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University

EDFish Guest Blogger - Joshua Abbott, Assistant Professor, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University

A recent assessment of the Bering Sea red king crab and snow crab fisheries finds that the majority of working crew have benefitted from the transition to catch shares in the first three years of its implementation.

The peer-reviewed article, coauthored by  James Wilen,  Brian Garber-Yonts and I, is published in the current issue of Marine Resource Economics.

Historically, over 200 vessels competed for the annual crab catch, leading to “derby” fisheries in which an entire year’s quota was exhausted in the space of a few days. This type of management led to boom and bust cycles, which often had negative environmental, social, and economic consequences.

Starting in the 2005/2006 season the derby was supplanted by a catch share system in which each vessel has an individual allocation of quota and can adjust this allocation by lease arrangements or permanent transfers with other quota owners.

Seasons are now two to three times the typical derby season and thus a larger number of short derby fishery jobs have been replaced by a smaller number of longer, safer, more stable and often more lucrative positions. When measured in total crew hours engaged in fishing, employment has remained stable following implementation of catch shares.  

Crew wages, as in many fisheries around the world, are determined using the “share” system. Payments are based on a defined share of fishing revenues minus costs such as fuel, food and bait. Comparisons of these contracts suggest that the crew’s share of net revenues has been fairly stable since catch-share implementation – hovering around 40% for a typical vessel. However, this stability masks important, and generally positive, changes in pay for crewmembers relative to before 2005.

The seasonal pay of crew has increased substantially. The analysis found that the median crew member on king crab vessels earned 66% more in a season than in prior seasons while approximately 87% of crew saw their wage rise. These increases occurred despite large coinciding price decreases for crab, which were largely driven by market factors unrelated to the catch share program. When this decrease in value is controlled for (by measuring pay in terms of the quantity of crab), increases in seasonal crew wages are even more dramatic – 122% and 109% for the median crew member on king crab and snow crab vessels, respectively. 

These increases in pay are partially attributable to the stacking of quota on fewer vessels over longer seasons. However, the daily “wage” of crew has also risen for many crewmembers. For instance, the daily pay of a typical king crab fishermen rose by 12% after catch share implementation. And despite the new cost of deducting the cost of quota from net revenues (a product of recognizing the value of the crab stock in fishing profits), daily pay has remained relatively stable and crew have prospered.

Many of these changes originate from improvements in the productivity of fishing. Live landings of crab per day have improved by 16% for snow crab and 38% for king crab since the implementation of catch shares. Research into the source of these productivity improvements continues, but some of the credit lies in the dramatic reduction of time spent waiting in port to offload crab. The coordination of delivery dates and slowing of the pace of fishing made possible by catch shares have increased the proportion of time actually spent fishing. 
Catch share management has also substantially changed the nature of a fishing job. Since each vessel knows its annual allocation of crab prior to the fishing season, the prospective wage is far less uncertain to crew than in the derby fishery where luck and skipper skill once played a large role in one’s prospects. Risk to life and limb has also decreased considerably, as skippers avoid fishing in the worst weather and often work their crew for fewer hours in a day.

While these fisheries are still adapting to catch shares, the negative scenarios often levied at this catch share program have not materialized. Rather, the early evidence is that catch shares have provided longer, safer, more reliable jobs to fishermen that are often more lucrative than those available before the management change.

Posted in Pacific / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

NPR Covers Forthcoming West Coast Catch Share

National Public Radio’s Morning Edition ran a story this morning about the West Coast groundfish catch share that will start January 1, 2011.   The story featured fishermen who are preparing for the new program and believe that it will be a big improvement over the old management system.  To help fishermen make the transition to catch shares, the West Coast Trawlers’ Network, a group of industry leaders from the west coast groundfish trawl fleet, created a new web site filled with information and resources.

Posted in Pacific / Tagged , | Comments are closed

Dangerous fishing derby a backdrop for latest South Atlantic Council meeting

Progress made toward catch shares, which will end derbies and provide year-round fishing

The latest South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) meeting resulted in several positive outcomes for fisheries and fishermen, notably the unanimous votes to add details to the snapper grouper and golden crab catch share programs and seek public input on them in early 2011.

Dangerous derby a reminder of need for catch shares

At the same time the Council met, a dangerous year-end black sea bass fishing derby kept many fishermen away from the meeting and served as a reminder of why improving management is urgently needed.

The black sea bass fishery was opened for a short end-of-year season Dec. 1-15. With vermillion snapper off limits, fishermen rushed to catch black sea bass, even in bad weather, to catch as many black sea bass as possible before the season closes. As these fish glut the market, prices stand to drop significantly.

Dangerous fishing derbies like this one are becoming more prevalent as fishing seasons are drastically shortened throughout the region.

Fishermen and communities are struggling as fishermen and fish dealers go out of business. Catch shares are a proven solution to rebuild prosperous fisheries and communities. Catch shares also eliminate destructive derby conditions.

The SAFMC should move aggressively to gather fishermen input on catch share design and feedback on the pending catch share amendments.

Catch shares improve the safety of fishing

Below are examples where catch shares improved the safety of fishing.

Alaskan fishermen talk about improved safety under catch shares in this video from Marine Conservation Alliance. 

Fishing derbies are brewing in the Southeast. Fishery managers should act responsibly for fish and fishermen, including taking steps to reduce derby fishing conditions with catch shares.

Posted in Uncategorized / Comments are closed

Cabinet of Belize Approves Catch Shares in Belize’s Network of Marine Protected Areas

Catch shares team in Belize from Environmental Defense Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Belize Fisheries Department.

Catch shares team in Belize from Environmental Defense Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Belize Fisheries Department.

“Fish Forever” – the motto of Belize’s fishermen.  Last week the Government of Belize in partnership with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) took a major step towards fulfilling that vision with a vote by Belize’s cabinet to authorize the implementation of catch shares in its network of marine protected areas. 

“Belize’s decision will protect the country’s magnificent Mesoamerican Reef and promote the vitality of its fishing industry,” said Larry Epstein, Mesoamerican Reef Program Manager for EDF, “This substantially adds to the growing list of successful conservation measures Belize is using to preserve its oceans for future generations.”

As a first step, the Belize Fisheries Department will implement their design for TURFs and catch limits for spiny lobster in 2011 and 2012 in Glover’s Reef and Port Honduras Marine Reserves.  Belize has already taken the first steps for allocating access to TURFs, creating a monitoring regime, and creating committees of fishermen to participate in the implementation and management of catch shares.

“Catch shares will assist in enforcing marine laws and ensure that fishermen are part and parcel of the enforcement, and respected as custodians because it will be part of their livelihoods that they will be protecting.”

– Hon. Rene Montero, Belize Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Cooperatives

In 2009 EDF created a partnership between the Government of Belize Fisheries Department, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the leading Belizean conservation NGO – the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE).  Our coalition achieved this milestone in Belize through an education campaign that engaged fishermen, policy makers, elected officials, and government managers of marine reserves.  EDF’s team of economists, scientists, and catch shares experts built Belize’s technical capacity for catch shares and helped develop the catch share design – including Rod Fujita, Kate Bonzon, Laura Rodriguez, Jake Kritzer, Doug Rader, Tom Lalley, and Tesia Love.   The Government of Belize has stated a vision for catch shares in all marine reserves, and for the commercial lobster fishery. 

Monkey River, Belize Fishing Boats

Monkey River Fishing Boats in Belize

Fishermen in Belize understand first-hand and have been advocating catch shares since EDF, WCS, and TIDE began working in their communities.  According to one fisherman from Placencia, a fishing community in southern Belize, “Every year for the past ten years we have had a decline in lobster production.  That is due to, I think, to overfishing and a general decline in product itself.”  Now Belize and its fishermen have a tool at their disposal that protects its oceans, while at the same time supporting the livelihoods and food security for the people that depend on its resources.

Posted in Belize / Tagged , , , , , | Comments are closed

Bering Sea Crabbers Say Catch Shares Have Been an ”Unqualified Success”

Reprinted with permission from SEAFOODNEWS.COM

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [] – December 10, 2010 – Alaska’s Bering Sea crabbers are calling the catch share program that has been operating in their crab fisheries since 2005 an “unqualified success.”

This assesssment came in a five-year review of the catch share program by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council which is meeting in Anchorage.

Prior to catch shares, hundreds of boats would race to load up with crab in wild winter conditions in a fishery that would lasting mere days or weeks. Under the catch share system, each vessel has a set amount of crabs to catch during extended seasons.

Crabbers claim their “grounds truth” proves that the new way of crab fishing is achieving the goals set out by managers and industry five years ago.

The problems associated with the crab fishery were identified in 2002 as resource conservation, reducing bycatch, excess harvesting and processing capacity, economic instability, high loss of life and injuries. The results of the five-year review released last month by Council staff concluded that the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Crab Catch Share Program is performing better than expected in reaching its objectives.

The report also said remaining crew positions in the crab fisheries are more stable, and crew generally make better pay under the catch share program.

Crabbers were pleased with the review findings, said Edward Poulsen, director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, a trade group representing 70% of the vessels fishing crab in the Bering Sea.

“From the harvesters’ perspective, we feel the catch share program has met or exceeded expectations in delivering against the problems it was intending to solve,” Poulsen said.

Notably, the Bering Sea crab fisheries have gone from being the deadliest catch to the safest catch.

Arni Thomson, director of the Alaska Crab Coalition said: “We lost 85 crabbers between 1989 and 2005, an average of 5.3 men per year. Since then, there has been one fatality and no vessel sinkings. The catch share program has saved 25 lives so far.”

Crabbers say the slower paced fishery is far more eco-friendly, with less impact on the crab and their habitat. Pot usage in the red king crab fishery, for example, has gone from 50,000 to 12,000 pots, a 76% reduction. By fishing more strategically, the crab fleet uses far less fuel, cutting its carbon footprint by more than half.

Poulsen said the catch share program encourages being “co-operators instead of cutthroat competitors who all benefit by working together”.

Posted in Pacific / Tagged , , , , | Comments are closed

San Francisco’s KQED Radio Takes a Look at the West Coast Groundfish Catch Share

As part of their weekly Quest series on the science and environment of Northern California, San Francisco’s KQED public radio took a look at the groundfish catch share management program that will be rolled out on January 1st in the state’s largest commercial fishery.

KQED reporter Lauren Sommer interviewed both commercial fishermen and federal regulatory officials – two groups who are often at odds when it comes to fisheries management. Her reporting revealed significant consensus on likely effects of the new system, which allocates individual fishing quotas – or IFQs – to fishermen who harvest groundfish – any of  90 plus species of rockfish (like chilipepper or yellowtail), flatfish (like dover and petrale sole) and roundfish (like sablefish and lingcod) on the West Coast.

That growing consensus suggests that IFQs on the West Coast will:

  • Inspire and increase stewardship of fish stocks, by doing away with a fishery management system that promotes the wasteful shoveling of “bycatch” – fish that current regulations require crews to shovel overboard, usually dead, after it is brought aboard in trawl nets.
  • Create full accountability for all fish caught – tallied by federal fisheries observers who will be onboard trawl vessels while they’re at sea.
  • Dramatically increase quality of the scientific data provided by fishermen to federal scientists whose job it is to assess fish populations and help set harvest guidelines.
  • Provide fishermen with a valuable and marketable asset, in the form of quota shares – a percentage of each year’s total allowable catch.
  • Help to replace competition and distrust among industry participants – fishermen, seafood buyers and regulators – with cooperation and communication, hallmarks of catch share fisheries the world over.

Listen to KQED’s story on the West Coast catch share.

Posted in Pacific / Tagged , , , , , | Comments are closed