EDFish

Selected tag(s): Fishermen

Last Stop – Sea Breeze, NC

Queen Quet with Gullah Geechee fishermen and other listening session attendees in Sea Breeze, NC.

Queen Quet with Gullah Geechee fishermen and other listening session attendees in Sea Breeze, NC.

During the past few months the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition and EDF have held listening sessions with African-American fishermen in the South Atlantic – from South Carolina to Florida and Georgia. The sessions provided us with the opportunity to listen and document the concerns of these fishermen working in commercial and subsistence fisheries.

Our series of listening sessions concluded last weekend in Sea Breeze, North Carolina. Fitting of its name, Sea Breeze once hailed as a popular beach destination for African-Americans in the Wilmington area. Members of the community recollected that on any given Friday night, Sea Breeze was alive with the sound of music and smell of cooked seafood. Our gathering was certainly reminiscent of the past, as local fishermen gathered around a feast of fresh seafood to discuss the important role fishing has played in their lives and how that has changed over time.

Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee nation and founder of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, led the meeting of nearly 30 participants. Although many do not continue to fish today, everyone in the room indicated they used to fish at one point in their lives. “Fishing was natural because the whole family did it,” explained attendee Mrs. McQuillan.

Only four men in attendance still remain in the commercial fishing sector with the years of experience varied among them. Fishing partners Luther McQuillan and Joe Farrow have been fishing for 60 and 70 years – a way of life that began when they were mere children. According to the four fishermen, Southeastern staples like shrimp, oysters, clams, and crabs were some of the more sought-after fish, in addition to croaker, mullet, red drum, and whiting.

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Fishermen Come to D.C. to Educate Lawmakers About Catch Shares

United States CapitolApproximately 50 fishermen have arrived in Washington, D.C. today to tell members of Congress how important catch shares are to their future.   Funding for the national catch shares program is included in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget.  The fishermen are in Washington to talk to their Congressional representatives and Senators about how conventional management is increasingly pushing fishermen off the water and how catch shares is a solution that keeps fishermen working – even while fish stocks recover.
 
Today more than 60 federal stocks are overfished or undergoing overfishing.  Thousands of fishing jobs have been lost as fisheries have declined under the current management system. This adverse impact from conventional management continues to increase as many valuable fisheries face huge closures or dwindling seasons, which will have devastating impacts on fishing jobs and coastal communities.

During their visits to Capitol Hill, fishermen will tell lawmakers how catch shares are locally designed to meet economic, social, and conservation goals.  Catch shares management is not a one-size-fits-all approach; rather programs are designed to meet the specific needs and goals of each fishery.

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Fishermen Express Concerns in Washington Today; Catch Shares Can Help

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans Program - National Policy Director

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans Program - National Policy Director

Fishermen are here in Washington, D.C. this week to express their concerns with fisheries today—and they have good reason to be frustrated. Even after decades of regulations aimed at restoring fisheries big problems still exist.

Today over 60 federal fish stocks are overfished or have overfishing occurring, resulting in declining catches and shrinking revenues.  We must rebuild these fish populations to restore vibrant fishing communities, because economic recovery requires biological recovery.  But, the key is picking the path that makes common sense.  

Until recently, fishery managers didn’t see a good choice.  Controlling overfishing has usually meant shrinking fishing seasons or even implementing closures, approaches that have serious economic impacts. For example, in the New England groundfish fishery significant reductions in resource abundance, allowable catches, and the number of active vessels reduced total fishing days by about half between 1995 to 2008 (Green, 2009; Thunberg, NEFSC, pers. comm.).  Commercial and recreational fishermen in the Southeast U.S. are just beginning to feel the cost of a closure on red snapper.  If better management options don’t surface soon, these impacts are expected to continue for the foreseeable future and grow as other regional fisheries close down too.

In contrast, catch share management can deliver increased prosperity, sustainability, and flexibility.  Instead of pushing fishermen off the water to restore the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico, fishery managers worked with commercial fishermen to develop a catch share program, which has increased dock-side prices, decreased bycatch and helped end overfishing (Steele 2008).  Red snapper populations are now rebounding, meaning more fish for everyone, including recreational fishermen.  

In the commercial Alaska halibut fishery, catch share management has extended the fishing season from less than a week to more than eight months each year, allowing fishermen to have more full-time work as well as flexibility in deciding when to fish (NOAA Fisheries 2009).  These and other catch share programs stand out as the few bright spots in fisheries today. 

Transitioning to catch shares now is a necessary and worthwhile investment, because it can solve the overfishing problem, while boosting profits and improving jobs for fishermen.  In addition, over time catch shares can reduce and stabilize the overall federal investment needed to support fishing jobs: catch shares shift some management costs to fishermen once they are economically-viable again.  I believe there are solutions for recreational fishing too—solutions that help keep fishermen on the water through better scientific data and tools to make sure that the amount of fish caught stays within limits.

Fishermen continue to suffer from the collapse of fish stocks around the country.  Putting off rebuilding is not the answer as it only continues the downward spiral that has been putting people out of work for decades.  Instead Congress should invest in a durable solution that restores economic, cultural, and biological prosperity to our nation’s fishing communities.

Works Cited

Green, A. (2009, May 30). Move to redefine New England Fishing. The New York Times, pp. A18.

Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Snapper Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic; Red Snapper Closure. Federal Register Vol. 74 Issue. 232. 12/02/2009.

NOAA Fisheries Service. (2009). Catch Share Spotlight No. 1: Alaska IFQ Halibut and Sablefish Program.

Steele, Phil. (2008, November 17). An Overview of the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper and Grouper/Tilefish IFQ Programs. Southeast Regional Office (SERO) National Marine Fisheries Services.

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We Seek Your Expertise; EDF Releases Catch Shares Design Manual for Public Comment

Draft Catch Shares Design Manual - For public commentEffective design of a catch share program is the critical piece that can make all the difference in how the needs of a fishery and its fishing communities are met under catch shares management. Catch Shares Design Manual: A Guide for Fishermen and Managers provides information and recommendations to fishery managers and stakeholders on specific catch share design elements as they relate to conservation, economic, and social objectives.

EDF developed this manual to provide a roadmap to catch share design, drawing on the experience of hundreds of fisheries in over a dozen countries and expertise from over 30 fishery experts from around the world.

While the Manual is comprehensive, it is not prescriptive: It is a series of questions whose answers help guide and inform the catch share design process.  Detailed discussions of various design elements are coupled with tools (including charts, check-lists, and case studies) to outline and highlight options.

Today, we release the draft of the Manual and ask for your constructive feedback and comments. We seek your expertise to make the document even better and will incorporate comments into the final version to be released later this year.  We hope you will contribute to this document.  Please go to www.edf.org/catchshares to provide your review before September 30.

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Fishermen Voices: Dave Preble – Narragansett, Rhode Island

This clip is from a fall 2008 interview with Dave Preble, a 45-year commercial and charter boat fisherman currently serving on the New England Fishery Management Council. Dave describes both the pressure on a fishery and fishermen, and the safety concerns associated with current fishing regulations that trigger a “race to fish.”  Under “sector” catch shares management, New England groundfishermen have begun developing business strategies to maximize the benefits of harvesting specified allocations of fish when they choose rather than competing with other fishermen for a scarce resource.

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A Cautionary Tale About the New Study from Ecotrust Canada

bc_074sm.jpgI just read A Cautionary Tale About ITQ’s in BC Fisheries by Ecotrust Canada.  What struck me most is that we seem to be moving beyond the debate about whether catch shares provide conservation benefits.  It’s clear that they do.

In the paper, Ecotrust affirms the conservation benefits of ITQs, Individual Transferable Quotas, one form of a catch share:

“[ITQs] make fishermen responsible for keeping within an individual catch limit thereby ensuring that the entire fleet stays within a strict TAC [total allowable catch].” 

The article goes on to say that, for this reason, ITQs have been good for conservation.   It also says that ITQs can increase the economic performance of a fishery.

As catch shares become more common, a close look at particular aspects of catch share design can help create a healthy dialogue about how best to fine-tune the programs.  We should aim to optimize conservation benefits while ensuring the highest possible benefits for fishing communities.

bc_058sm.jpgEcotrust highlights that catch shares have led to increases in the value of fisheries.  Significant societal benefits are associated with these changes, including providing fishermen and crew with more stable jobs; providing opportunities for creative business innovations; more highly valued seafood; and increased investment in modernizing fishing boats and gear.  However, Ecotrust focuses on the economic impacts on a specific group of stakeholders in fisheries:  primarily fishing crews.  Ecotrust’s central complaint is that the practice of leasing quota share disadvantages British Columbia fishing crews, compared to share owners or other stakeholders.

The design of any fishing regulation should be as fair as possible with regard to participation by all of society in the economic upside of well-managed fisheries.  Most unfair of all would be to continue managing our fisheries on an unsustainable course.

The paper points to specific solutions to the concern of fairness in catch shares: including community hold backs, direct community allocations, owner-on-board requirements, territorial use rights and other mechanisms.  EDF has advocated and even pioneered these types of tools in past and current catch share design processes.  Our goal, which we share with Ecotrust and many other fishery stakeholders, is to maximize the positive socio-economic outcomes and minimize the negative ones — once conservation performance is assured.

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