Selected tag(s): Chris Costello

Is the Debate Over?

As originally posted on Grist.org

Diane Regas, Associate Vice President - EDF Oceans ProgramIn the current issue of Science twenty-one leading ocean scientists declared a truce—it’s as if Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner agreed to stop the chase for a day. The paper was authored by many of the biggest names on all sides of the debate on ending overfishing—Boris Worm, Ray Hilborn, Andy Rosenberg and Chris Costello. So what are the terms?

First, they agree on what I will call a “Goldilocks” catch level (You know—not too hot, not too cold, but just right.) If we fish too much, then fish get smaller, catch levels eventually go down and lots of species end up on the road to ruin. If we fish too little, we can keep the fish in the oceans healthy, but fish for people goes way down. Fishing just right would mean aiming to catch about 20 percent of ocean fish every year. At that level, fish would be bigger, the long term catch would be stable at a high level, and the news for ecosystems—whales, dolphins, and turtles—would be good too; at least 90% of species would be at healthy levels-which is quite a bit better than we are doing now.

The second part of the paper is where the scientists waded into the hot debate on what management works to get to the Goldilocks level. The scientists looked at the big ocean places that are making progress and asked managers what worked. The first thing they found was that most places use a mix of approaches for the mix of ecosystem types-so there is not a panacea. Pretty much everyone will agree to that.

What comes out on top, though? It comes down to effectively implementing caps on catch levels using two key tools: reducing the Total Allowable Catch and putting in place catch shares. (You can look at their table where a solution was identified in at least five of the ten fisheries, and was usually ranked an “essential” part of the solution.) This is strong stuff!

There are lots of questions yet to answer—like why is it that a catch share program always had a reduced allowable catch level? Is the theory right that catch shares make it easier to set the catch level properly? And what makes it possible for enough stakeholders to agree to close off areas of the ocean? What are the keys to community co-management, which seems to work in small-scale fisheries? I expect that the scientists will go back to their corners and duke out those questions. I can’t wait.

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EDF Co-Sponsors Workgroup on Marine Data Collection and Analysis

Kristen Honey is a Stanford Doctoral Candidate and the current Lorry Lokey Fellow at EDF.

An observer on a fishing boat documenting amount of catchEffective and efficient fisheries management is often limited by available information and the high cost of marine data collection and analysis. Regardless of information gaps, management decisions still need to be made. Common challenges exist because too little is known about fish populations and their dynamics, the spatial distribution of fishing harvest, or monitoring and enforcement of regulatory standards.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation co-sponsored a 3-day workshop at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) in June 2009 on novel analytical approaches to meet these challenges. The workshop, entitled “Analytic Innovations in Minimum Information Fisheries Management”, convened 25 experts from around the world to present and discuss innovative research related to challenges in fisheries management.

Workshop organizers included Chris Costello, Steve Gaines, and Sarah Lester from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). The efforts of this workgroup build on prior collaboration and work with the team at UCSB, including Costello and Gaines, who co-authored a study on the viability of catch share programs for halting or reversing fisheries decline.

On behalf of EDF, Diane Regas (DC), Kristen Honey (SF), and Dick Allen (consultant) joined the working group. Collectively, there was a blend of resource economists, marine ecologists, fishery scientists, and applied practitioners (full participant list).

The NCEAS workgroup highlighted applied solutions for fisheries managers, particularly for regions with limited access to fisheries data. Workshop participants discussed recent advances in fisheries management with information constraints. Discussions and individual presentations covered a variety of topics with special emphasis on: 1) spatial management approaches, 2) incentive-based management, 3) stock assessment and management under uncertainty, and 4) multi-species management.

EDF is currently following-up on the workshop’s outcomes, in collaboration with UCSB partners, and we aim to ensure that outcomes are shared widely for improved on-the-ground fisheries reform. Future work may potentially involve a second follow-up meeting for the workgroup and scientific talks on these topics at the 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting. Contact Kristen Honey at khoney [at] edf.org for additional information.

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