Selected tag(s): Alaska

Why is Bristol Bay’s salmon run so resilient?

By Rod Fujita and Merrick Burden

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a multi-part blog series, Fisheries for the Future, examining the impacts from climate change on global fisheries and the opportunities to address these emerging challenges. Throughout the series, we’ll be investigating how climate change will impact the world’s supply and distribution of fish and what we can do to ensure the most sustainable future for ourselves and our planet. Learn more about this work: Resilient Seas

Bristol Bay, Alaska, supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world. The annual salmon run is often described as one of the greatest wildlife migrations on Earth. This salmon run has a large economic impact, generating over $280 million directly to fishermen and supporting about 14,000 seafood-related jobs. This is in addition to the important subsistence and cultural role it plays for many communities in the region. Bristol Bay salmon have remained abundant for over a century despite intensive fishing and climate change. Why? Read More »

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Fishing smarter can save lives

fishing safetyNPR’s Planet Money recently featured the Alaska Halibut fishery in a compelling story of how the commercial catch share system has dramatically improved safety for fishermen while preventing overfishing, ensuring a higher quality product, and allowing fishermen the time to invest in their fishing businesses.

Before the catch share, seasons were increasingly shortened until fishermen were forced to race against each other in 24 hour derbies—often risking their lives and their equipment.  After the new rules were put in place, fishermen were given a total number of fish they could catch, rather than being constrained by a short time window. The catch share program is part of the reason why the Coast Guard reported zero operational related commercial fishing fatalities in Alaska in Fiscal Year 2015.

Fishing is inherently dangerous but it’s still important to look at the several ways to make it safer. Inspections, the use of safety gear and training all make a difference. So can the way fishing regulations attempt to address overfishing. Read More »

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‘Deadliest Catch’ Fisherman Explains How His Job is Less Deadly Thanks to Catch Shares

The Discovery Channel’s The Deadliest Catch portrays just how dangerous commercial fishing can be. However, in today’s Wall Street Journal, Bering Sea fisherman and a cast member of the show, Scott Campbell, Jr., shares how the Alaska crab fishery is now significantly safer following the implementation of catch shares in August 2005. Read the full article here.

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

Reprinted with permission from SEAFOODNEWS.COM

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [seafoodnews.com] – 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”.

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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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High Country News Reports on the Successes and Challenges of Catch Shares

Diane Regas is Associate Vice President for EDFThe latest issue of High Country News has a good story on one type of catch share program—for crab in Alaska. I found Matt Jenkins’ take on catch shares balanced and engaging—he covers the benefits of catch shares and fairly points out some of the challenges this fishery has faced.

Among Alaska crab fishermen, safety, economic stability and resource sustainability have all improved. And while crew pay has doubled, there are fewer crew jobs than there were. Jenkins also explains why crew members are finding it is a lot harder to work their way up from deckhand to captaining their own boat. (Some of the design mistakes in the crab program, I am glad to say, are not allowed under the current fisheries law.)

The good news is that well-designed catch shares have been and can be designed to protect community and crew interests too. The red snapper catch share in the Gulf of Mexico and the halibut and sablefish catch share in Alaska are good examples of how catch shares have improved economics and resource sustainability while at the same time enhancing the stability of fishing communities. 

And other new ideas are being tried out across the country, including limiting consolidation, devoting a part of the quota to conservation or to address community concerns, creating community quota banks, and creating loan funds that can help keep quota in local communities. (Interestingly, the design of the crab program was determined by a special Act of Congress which helped lock in some serious problems—and the design did not include some of these creative options.)

Catch shares are already proving that they can end the race for fish and prevent – and even reverse – the global collapse of fisheries.  Catch shares present a new opportunity for fisheries at a time when many ocean fisheries and the communities that depend on them face a steep decline. As more fisheries move to catch shares, careful and creative design solutions will help improve catch shares for all the stakeholders.

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