Monthly Archives: June 2012

EDF Recognizes World Oceans Day

Rahel Marsie-Hazen, Howard University Fellow

Today, June 8, 2012 marks the fourth World Oceans Day.  The United Nations established this special day both to celebrate and pay tribute to the mighty body of water that covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and contains 97% of the planet’s water. The world’s oceans generate most of the oxygen we breathe, regulate our climate, clean the water we drink and house potential medicines for illnesses.

Let’s not forget that our oceans also provide us with seafood, which plays an integral role in the food security of billions of people worldwide. Small and large communities in many regions of the world depend on fish as a primary source of protein. For many, it provides an invaluable supplement for diversified and healthy diets. Our oceans also support the fishing industry, which provides an important means of income for millions of people and their families.

Our oceans do a great deal for us and on this day we must recognize that they are in serious trouble. According to the 2010 State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report, more than 80% of global fisheries are fully or over exploited. But the tide is turning in American fisheries. Fisheries management reform and best practices are nursing these fisheries back to health—rebounding fish stocks, returning job stability and providing consumers with fresh and sustainably caught seafood. And this is definitely excellent news to celebrate. Happy World Oceans Day.

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MPAtlas Provides New Tool to Learn about Marine Protected Areas

The Marine Conservation Institute, in partnership with the Waitt Foundation, has developed an online digital atlas that assembles information on marine protected areas (MPAs) around the world. This is a valuable tool that provides the ability to explore sites and characteristics of existing and proposed MPAs. When developed with careful consideration of fishing communities, MPAs have the potential to accelerate recovery of fish populations, increase ecosystem resilience and provide data for stock assessments and catch limit setting.  Learning about existing MPAs and their impacts can help inform the design and implementation of future sites, and hopefully improve the ability of MPAs to provide direct ecosystem and fishery benefits.

MPA Atlas

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More Red Snapper for Gulf of Mexico Fishermen

Teal basket full of red snapper

Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper

For another year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has approved an increase in the total allowable catch (TAC) for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.  The TAC is the overall cap (in pounds) of fish that fishermen are allowed to catch each year and is distributed to the commercial sector, which receives 51% of it, and the recreational sector, which receives 49%.

This increase of 12% brings the TAC up to 8.08 million pounds of red snapper.  Overall, the TAC has been increased by 60% since the beginning of the commercial catch share program for red snapper in 2007. Both commercial and recreational fishermen have seen consistent increases in the amount of fish they are able to catch since the catch share program began.

Last week, on the first of June,   the recreational red snapper season began.  Recreational fishermen have grown increasingly frustrated by short fishing seasons.  This year they will only have 40 days to fish for red snapper, down from 48 days in 2011.  And recreational fishermen are still being managed by closed seasons and bag limits. Read More »

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Catch Shares are Working: Keep Them as a Management Option

NOAA Fish Stock Sustainability IndexCatch shares as a method of aligning economic and environmental incentives have been a hot topic in the news. The Atlantic published a piece by Jonathan H Adler, a professor of law, entitled “Property Rights and Fishery Conservation” which discusses fisheries as an ideal example of the ‘tragedy of the commons’ where introducing concepts of property rights are a smart solution. He writes, “The creation of property rights in an ecological resource not only creates incentives for greater resource stewardship, to conserve the underlying value of the resource today and into the future. It also gives those who rely upon the resource a stake in the broader set of institutions that govern the resource.” He asserts that traditional fishery management has failed world fish stocks and that catch shares are scientifically proven to rebuild the resource and protect the fishermen in the future.

Another story in the Economist entitled “Plenty More Fish in the Sea: Sensible Policies are Working” drew on the recent NOAA stock assessment for proof that utilizing smarter management and paying attention to science has rebuilt a record 6 fish stocks this year. This story gives a history of management that has failed fish stocks and urges Congress to keep catch shares as a management tool. “On May 9th the House passed legislation forbidding NOAA from developing an innovative means of apportioning fishing quotas, known as catch shares. These are long-term, aiming to give fishermen a stake in the future of their fisheries; market-based, since they can be traded; and, in practice, good for fish.”

Catch shares need to be carefully designed and are not a ‘silver bullet’ for all fisheries, but they should be kept on the table as an innovative tool that can help fishermen and fish populations. Decisions about fishery management should be made by Regional Councils, not Congress.

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