The Blog Aquatic » sustainable fisheries http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 The House Draft Fisheries Bill Doesn’t Add Up http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/02/27/the-house-draft-fisheries-bill-doesnt-add-up/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/02/27/the-house-draft-fisheries-bill-doesnt-add-up/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 14:00:37 +0000 Ellen Bolen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7583

Photo: Sara Thomas

In elementary school, we learned through basic math that 1 + 1 = 2 and 2 x 2 = 4. As we grew up, math became more complicated with different variables and formulas, but we always knew that 1 + 1 = 2 and 2 x 2 = 4. Fisheries math is not all that different.

Each year, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use fishery math and science to determine how many fish can be removed from fisheries in a sustainable manner, and the number of fish that can be removed is called the annual catch limit (ACL). If species fall below a level that is sustainable, managers put in a rebuilding plan – a roadmap to rebuild the stock to a healthy level.

Counting fish clearly isn’t nearly as easy as Dr. Seuss made it out to be (one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish), but the simple equation of “science-based annual catch limits + adequate rebuilding timelines = healthy and sustainable fisheries” is generally accepted among members of the fishing community. No matter which way we frame it, science-based catch limits and adequate rebuilding timelines are key components to keep our fisheries healthy and the fishing industry in business.

But this equation is in jeopardy, and so are fish populations.

On Friday, Feb. 28, the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the primary law governing our nation’s fisheries. A draft bill proposed by Chairman Doc Hastings, however, would alter the formula that we know is working for our fisheries.

The Hastings proposal would subtract out some of the science-based provisions that have led to success on the water while adding in several exemptions to promote short-term economic gains. This equation does not equal success for our fisheries, coastal communities or the long-term viability of the fishing industry.

Overall, the reauthorization of the MSA + the Hastings language = The Empty Oceans Act.

Some may think that this equation is a bold statement, but all you have to do is look at the numbers in the draft language to realize that it’s true:

  • 5 – The number of years the draft bill would allow overfishing to occur
  • 3 – The number of fisheries that are exempted from applying ACLs
  • 4 –  The number of other environmental laws that are affected by Chairman Hastings’ draft by placing the interests of the fishing industry over those of endangered species, sensitive habitat and the environment
  • 5 – Exemptions to the successful rebuilding provisions in the House draft bill that regional fisheries management councils can use to delay rebuilding
  • 7 – The number of types of data – collected with taxpayer dollars on a public resource – not available to the public
  • 30 – The number of pages of Chairman Hastings’ draft bill it took to roll back almost 20 years of progress, including:
    • 32 fish stocks that have been fully rebuilt due to the reauthorization provisions in current law
    • 20 fish stocks that are no longer experiencing overfishing since 2007 due to science-based ACLs, a cornerstone of sustainable fisheries
    • 0 – The number of ways the draft bill builds upon the successful formula for sustainable fisheries and improves fisheries management

These numbers just don’t add up to successful and sustainable fisheries. These numbers add up to depleted fisheries and long-term economic consequences for fishermen and coastal communities. We don’t need to subtract from the law. We need to add provisions to help us manage fisheries in a dynamic and changing ocean.

All these numbers add up to are empty nets.

Take action and tell your members of Congress to reject the proposed language drafted by Hastings in order to protect our nation’s fisheries.

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Red Snapper Numbers Go Up In More Ways Than One http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/15/red-snapper-numbers-go-up-in-more-ways-than-one/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/15/red-snapper-numbers-go-up-in-more-ways-than-one/#comments Mon, 15 Jul 2013 17:16:37 +0000 Libby Fetherston http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6292 Fisherman loads red snapper into buckets

Credit: Tom McCann / Ocean Conservancy

UPDATE (July 17, 2013): Success! The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has voted to raise this year’s catch limit for red snapper from 8.46 to 11 million pounds due to the successful rebuilding of this iconic species. This action marks a historic moment in the management of the red snapper fishery, as catch levels are the highest they’ve been in 25 years.

Read more about this decision here.

Original post (July 15, 2013):

It’s summer in the Gulf of Mexico, and another recreational red snapper fishing season has come and gone too quickly. Usually at this time of year, anglers and fishery managers are taking stock of what was caught in the short snapper opening and wondering what the limit will be next year. The answer will come sooner than usual.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is holding an emergency meeting this week to decide how many more red snapper can be caught this year. A science panel recently announced that an increase is possible, and now managers need to settle the questions of how much and by when?

The good news is that the red snapper population is on the rise and soon the catch limit will be too. The law governing our nation’s fisheries, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, has rebuilt a record number of fish populations around the country, and red snapper is one of the most visible success stories.

As recently as 2005, the red snapper population was fished down to 3 percent of its historic abundance, and catch limits were reduced to allow recovery. Just eight years later, fishermen are reporting better fishing and larger fish, and scientists have confirmed red snapper is on the road to recovery.

Because red snapper was reduced so low, we have a long way to go to achieve full restoration of the population. So the trick this week is to set a responsible catch limit increase—Ocean Conservancy is recommending between 11 and 11.9 million pounds—to keep up the progress that has already been made while allowing additional fishing opportunities for commercial and recreational participants.

Keeping the increase to a responsible level benefits everyone. Recreational fishermen will be able to catch more fish and get a more stable fishing season, helping to support tourism and local economies for both the short and long term. Commercial fishing will benefit for years to come as the population continues to rebound and provide stable and secure harvests into the future. And for the general public, especially seafood-lovers, responsible limits demonstrate a long-term commitment to the recovery and sustainability of Gulf fisheries—and the food and recreation they provide us all.

Red snapper is an iconic Gulf species, and economically is among the most valuable fish so its long-term recovery and health should be our first priority. The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster still represents a great source of uncertainty for the region’s fisheries, and making the right choices is more important now than ever as we do not yet know the extent to which the disaster affected red snapper and the things they rely on as a food source.

For now, the good news is that snapper is rebounding and the Magnuson-Stevens Act is working. Now it’s up to fishery managers to make a responsible decision on the catch limit to help ensure the good news continues.

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Let the Sun Continue to Shine on Fishery Management http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/12/let-the-sun-continue-to-shine-on-fishery-management/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/12/let-the-sun-continue-to-shine-on-fishery-management/#comments Tue, 12 Mar 2013 22:39:52 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5130

Sunrise over fishing boat docks in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. Bethany Kraft / Ocean Conservancy

Sunshine Week is upon us! Sunshine week  (March 10-16) is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.

Governing in the sunshine is especially important for sustainably managing our nation’s fishery resources. Every year, fishery managers make decisions about how to manage fish populations, and they rely on input from fishermen, scientists, community groups and others to help make smart choices. Information gathered on the water about what fish are caught, where they are caught, and interactions with other ocean wildlife is essential for the public to understand how fish populations are being managed and how those decisions affect ocean ecosystems. Access to this information is necessary for everyone, including fishermen, to participate effectively in the management process, and to ensure that our fisheries are managed responsibly and sustainably for the benefit of present and future generations.

However, public access to fishery management information is currently being threatened. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is considering sweeping changes to its rule regarding confidentiality of information under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). Unfortunately, it’s the opposite of governing in the sunshine. The proposed changes would unnecessarily stifle public participation in the management of public trust ocean resources, including depleted fish populations and protected species. The proposed rule would take the unprecedented and unwarranted leap from protecting personal privacies to withholding basic required information from the owners of the resource: the public. As currently written, the proposed rule could make nearly all essential fisheries data inaccessible to the public, and would prohibit access to critical information that forms the fundamental basis for fishery management decisions. The rule is still pending.

Our nation’s ocean wildlife and fish are public trust resources managed on all of our behalf by NMFS. These resources belong to the American public, and the entire nation has a stake in the jobs and revenues generated from them. U.S. fish populations alone support hundreds of thousands of jobs in the tourism, fishing and seafood industries. Commercial and recreational fishing generates $183 billion per year for the U.S. economy and supports more than 1.5 million full and part-time jobs. Moreover, millions of taxpayer dollars are invested each year in fisheries management including the collection of data by professional observers on fishing vessels. As noted by the Sunlight Foundation, this rule change would restrict access to information from publicly-funded fisheries observer programs, which are funded to the tune of some $40 million each year.

NMFS should withdraw this flawed proposal and replace it with one that ensures public access to fisheries information. The desire to streamline the federal fisheries data processing system is laudable, but the proposed rule presents an unjustified expanded cloak of secrecy that could undermine transparency and stifle public participation. In honor of Sunshine Week, we must continue to urge NMFS to preserve public access to fishery management information as the law intends. A new proposal must preserve transparency, participation and collaboration so that researchers, scientists and members of the public can contribute to the successful management of our nation’s publicly owned ocean resources.

 

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Making Waves as Ocean Conservancy’s New President and CEO http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/02/04/making-waves-as-ocean-conservancys-new-president-and-ceo/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/02/04/making-waves-as-ocean-conservancys-new-president-and-ceo/#comments Mon, 04 Feb 2013 12:00:34 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4448 Andreas Merkl

Photo: Paolo Vescia / Ocean Conservancy

As is the case with many career paths, my journey toward joining Ocean Conservancy as President and CEO is a long and circuitous one, and it begins with a childhood spent playing along the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany. Inspired by the post-war environmental awakening in industrial northern Germany, I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to conservation.

When I graduated from high school, my father gave me 3,000 Deutsche Marks and told me to leave out of the front door of the house and return at the back door, taking the long way around. As naïve as it sounds, I started my “walkabout” in the United States by sticking my thumb in the air outside the arrivals terminal of New York City’s JFK airport and eventually hitchhiked my way across the country.

I ended up finding a more permanent home in San Francisco, where I’ve spent nearly four decades working in environmental conservation and natural resource management. That is, until last month, when I made one more long-distance move—this time to settle in Washington, D.C., and begin making some waves at an organization I’ve long admired.

Today is my first day at the helm, and I’m inspired and honored to be leading efforts to tackle the ocean’s biggest challenges. Ocean Conservancy had a banner year in 2012, and I hope to learn from those victories and build on them.

Last year, Ocean Conservancy helped protect polar bears, seals and walruses by pushing for a timeout on oil and gas activity in the Arctic. We completed the nation’s first statewide network of marine parks in California, and helped pass the RESTORE Act, which will direct much-needed funds toward restoring the marshes, fisheries and habitats of the Gulf of Mexico.

As always, Ocean Conservancy mobilized volunteers all over the world to clean debris from beaches and waterways during the International Coastal Cleanup. But in 2012, we did even more in our work toward trash free seas, including the launch of a mobile app, Rippl™, to help consumers make wise choices to reduce their impact on the ocean.

In the last year and over the last four decades, Ocean Conservancy has made great strides in finding solutions to problems that face the ocean. But our work is far from over.

We must continue to protect and restore ecosystems in the Arctic, the Gulf of Mexico and along the Pacific Coast; promote productive and sustainable fisheries; fight for trash free seas; ensure comprehensive ocean planning; and begin critical work to address increasing acidity levels in the ocean. This is a world-class platform for growth.

The ocean is at the very center of the central challenge of our time: how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us. In every aspect of this challenge—food, energy, climate and protection of our natural resources—our ability to manage our impacts on the ocean will make the crucial difference in sustaining the resources that we need to survive.

Ocean Conservancy should be at the very center of these issues. We cannot afford to stand still as threats to our ocean increase and the window to preserve the functionality, resiliency and vitality of the ocean closes.

As CEO, I pledge to redouble Ocean Conservancy’s efforts to foster new ideas and embrace an invigorated spirit to tackle the ocean’s biggest challenges with science-based solutions.

I am fortunate to be working with such a great team of colleagues, partners and friends worldwide to help shape a sustainable ocean future. I am confident that together we will continue our legacy of success for years to come.

I invite you to join me in this commitment to fight for a healthy, thriving ocean. I plan on making some waves. How about you?

 

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