EDFish

Selected tag(s): Conservation

New Study Evaluates 15 Fisheries in the U.S. and British Columbia Before and After Catch Shares

Can a Change in Management Solve the World’s Most Pressing Marine Conservation Challenge and Foster Vibrant Coastal Communities? A new study published in the journal Marine Policy finds that reforming how fisheries are managed can successfully restore and maintain healthy fish populations and benefit both fishermen and fishing-dependent communities.  The study evaluated 15 fisheries in the U.S. and British Columbia before and after adopting “catch shares” — a type of fishery management increasingly common worldwide.

Catch shares, the study found, delivers “clear gains in environmental performance (and) major economic improvements” as well as dramatic improvements in safety for fishermen.  The improvements were found across a range of fisheries in the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and extended to fishermen from both small and large vessels, using a diversity of gears and targeting a variety of fish.  In contrast, the study found that these same fisheries performed poorly under traditional fishery management in virtually all areas.

Overall, the study is a dose of good news at a time when most news we hear about oceans is bad.  The results also come at a time when some in Congress are pushing to eliminate fishermen’s ability to pursue catch shares for their fisheries.  The findings point to a clear choice about which strategy the nation should pursue to achieve abundant oceans that also allow fishermen and fishing-dependent communities to prosper. Read More »

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New Report: Gulf Red Snapper Catch Share Meeting Objectives

The Gulf of Mexico red snapper individual fishing quota (IFQ) program – one type of catch share – is again earning high marks for its conservation and economic benefits.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has published three annual updates of the program, with the latest concluding that the red snapper IFQ is meeting its main objectives. A recent stock assessment also concluded that long-standing “overfishing” of red snapper is finally ending.

Tangible Conservation, Economic Progress

  • Commercial overfishing is reversed and catch limits are climbing.
    After recent deep cuts in catch, commercial fishermen were rewarded this year with a more than 30 percent increase in catch in response to the positive stock assessment results and effective management.
  • Far fewer dead fish are thrown overboard.  
    Scientific analyses conclude that 70 percent fewer fish are being thrown overboard under IFQs across the Gulf. The latest report highlights that in Texas and Louisiana, which accounted for over half of the ’09 landings, fishermen discarded just one fish for every 15 they kept.  This is a huge improvement over pre-IFQ management when, gulf-wide, fishermen threw back about one fish for every one kept.
  • Fishermen are leaving more fish in the water to reproduce.
    Not only are fewer fish thrown overboard, fishermen have left about three percent of their quota in the water for the past three years.
  • Businesses have an opportunity to turn a profit. 
    With year-round fishing and stability, fishermen bring high quality fish to the dock when consumer demand is high. Fishermen now have flexibility to tailor the catch to market needs and organize fishing trips to minimize costs.  Fishermen say their costs have dropped by 50 percent or more and data show they are earning 25 percent more for their fish at the dock.
  • The value of the fishery is rising. 
    The rising value of the privilege to catch red snapper represents growing benefits to Gulf communities and reflects optimism for a healthy fishery, stable management, and a commitment to conservation.  

Opportunities for Improvement in the 5-year Review

With 2011 around the corner, a milestone for IFQ program is approaching: The start of a 5-year mandatory performance evaluation.

All federal catch share programs are reviewed at the 5-year point to evaluate progress toward goals and identify needed improvements. This is also an opportunity highlight the region’s most significant management successes – and national model – and to fine-tune the plan and ensure on-going benefits to the fishery, industry and communities.

One thing is clear going into the review: the IFQ program is working and should be continued. Additionally, there are two key areas in which the program can be improved:

  • Continue to improve enforcement and monitoring
    • Ensure standardized, accurate reporting of ex-vessel prices by fish dealers.  This is important in part for collection of cost recovery fees.
    • Improve the online IFQ reporting system so that it reconciles with other landing records data.
    • Ensure compliance with the six percent cap on holding IFQ shares.
  • Reduce red snapper discarding even more
    • Eliminate the minimum size limit to reduce size-related discards.
    • Better integrate eastern Gulf fishermen into the IFQ program (This region received little initial allocation of shares because red snapper had been fished out of the area until recently).
    • Create a full-retention fishery where all fish caught are counted toward each fisherman’s quota, and tracked by camera, to eliminate all waste that lessen the value and recovery of the fishery.

A Successful Model for Struggling Fisheries

The red snapper IFQ has already served as a model for Gulf commercial fishermen who voted to add 20 grouper and tilefish species into the IFQ program in 2010. Conservation and economic benefits will further improve if all commercial reef fish are incorporated into the program.

Regulators and commercial fishermen who target highly migratory species, like sharks, are also considering how catch shares might help them improve fishing, reduce wasteful discards, and boost profits.  Finally, catch shares could also be applied to struggling Gulf charter operators to give these fishermen an opportunity to plan their businesses and far better meet the needs of their angler clients.

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U.S. and Cuba, Working Together to Protect Shared Resources

Cuba lies just 90 miles from the tip of Florida. The two areas share a large expanse of ocean – and the huge array of biodiversity contained within it. That’s why EDF staffers are in Cuba this week to discuss ways to eliminate overfishing, protect coral reefs, conserve coastal areas, and tap potential ocean energy in our shared backyard.

Already, in September, EDF hosted a Cuban delegation in a move towards creating greater scientific exchange between the two countries. “The U.S. and Cuba share many ecological resources, but have different ways of managing them,” says EDF’s Dan Whittle. “Fishing, coastal development, and offshore oil and gas exploration in Cuba can have impacts in the U.S., and vice-versa. The sooner we work together to manage shared resources and find solutions to common problems, the sooner we’ll see benefits for the people, the environment and the economy in both countries.”

We’ll have a follow up post to report on the trip when our scientists return.

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Kemp’s Ridley Comeback (Part II)

Kemps ridley sea turtleEarlier this summer I reported on the revival of the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the smallest of all the sea turtles, which I’m happy to report has now had another record breaking nesting year! 197 nests have been spotted along the Texas coast and more could still be discovered, though August typically marks the end of the turtles’ nesting season. In 2001 fewer than ten turtles were found on the Texas Coast, but in part due to protections that government, industry and EDF and other conservation groups helped win for the turtles, this year marks the sixth year in a row of increased nestings.

A similar trend for this turtle has also been reported south of the border.  In the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, nestings back in 1985 numbered as few as 700 (down from 40,000).  Through Mexican efforts to protect the nesting sites, there are now upwards of 20,000 annually.

Check out a recent news story on how many interests came together to make this recovery a reality and stay tuned for next season!

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EDF Participates in Environment and Development Convention in Cuba

Three fishermen, El Malecón, Havana, Cuba: Photo by MissMass (http://www.flickr.com/photos/missmass/)Last week, EDF’s Dan Whittle and Denise Stetten attended and presented at the 7th International Convention on Environment and Development in Havana, Cuba. The convention brought together scientists, government officials, entrepreneurs, NGOs, and others to discuss solutions to various issues, including environmental education, protected areas, environmental management, ecosystems and biodiversity management, and climate change.

Dan Whittle, EDF’s project director on Cuba, participated in the convention’s colloquium on environmental law, which focused on public participation in environmental decision-making. He also gave a presentation entitled “Shared Ecosystems: Opportunities for Increasing Environmental Cooperation and Collaboration,” in which Dan emphasized that partnerships between U.S. and Cuban scientists, NGOs, and government agencies can result in the production of better information that in turn should result in better policies and decisions.

Denise Stetten, Latin America program manager at EDF, also participated in the conference and worked with our Cuban partners on an assessment of coastal conservation in Cuba.

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