Project Report:
Safeguarding New England's Groundfish Fishery and Marine Ecosystem through Market-based Management Programs
Purpose
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.

Summary

Recently published research (Science, 9/18/2008) that looked at data from 11,000 fisheries worldwide from 1950 to 2003 found that fisheries that were managed through “catch share” cap-and-trade systems halted and even reversed steep population declines, while traditionally managed fisheries did not. Environmental Defense Fund, along with partner groups, seeks to replace failed “days-at-sea” regulations for New England’s declining marine fisheries with this proven market-based solution to improve their ecological and economic health and resilience.

Port Clyde Fish Market
Port Clyde fishermen selling their fresh catch directly to customers from a refrigerated truck. The fishermen have embraced sustainable management by working with fishery scientists to develop selective gear. The improved trawl gear avoids catching depleted cod while targeting more abundant haddock.

Description

EDF staff continues to support managers and industry leaders in an increasingly broad and rapid transition to catch shares in many different New England fisheries. We coordinate our policy change efforts with allies including the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fisherman's Association, Oceana, Earth Justice, Conservation Law Foundation, the New England Aquarium, and The Nature Conservancy.

In 2003, the New England Fishery Management Council approved a proposal for a voluntary fishing cooperative-based catch share for any hook and line fisherman willing to fish under a fixed quota. This proposal came from a group of fishermen on Cape Cod who knew that the existing system--the days-at-sea system--was failing them. Two years later, most groundfish fishermen were still struggling under the old system, but they were also seeing the flexibility that sector participants were enjoying. Another small group of fishermen came forward, also willing to fish under fixed quotas in exchange for relief from other rules. The Council approved another sector, this time for gillnetters, in 2005.

Amendment 16 to the groundfish plan, more than three years in the making, included a total of 19 voluntary sectors/fishing cooperatives. These were approved unanimously in June 2009. As of a September 1, 2009 deadline, 723 boats, representing over 90 percent of the possible harvest and 82 percent of the days-at-sea permits in the groundfish fishery, signed up to fish under sectors in 2010.

Prior to the June 2009 unanimous vote by the New England Fishery Management Council to adopt groundfish sectors, we coordinated meetings between British Columbia catch share experts and fishermen and fishery managers. We worked together to identify swing votes on the Council and lobby for their support. In addition to the unanimous vote for sectors, the Council achieved lopsided consensus votes on every other key issue, including a groundfish allocation formula, catch monitoring, and the requirement that by 2012, every fisherman in this 400-year-old fishery will be required to fish under a hard TAC.

Since the historic June vote, we have been working with industry, NGO and agency allies to make great progress in resolving specific implementation concerns:

• Increased at-sea observer coverage to 38 percent for sectors and 30 percent for the common pool, paid for with $7 million in federal appropriations. NMFS is pursuing development of electronic at-sea monitoring technology and electronic logbooks, which will decrease monitoring costs as industry gradually takes them over.
• Successfully got the word out that fishermen needed to voluntarily sign up for sectors by September 1, 2009, and that they could decide to drop out later.
• A letter from NMFS to the Council requested stricter trip limits for cod and pollock to prevent overfishing in the "common pool" and to encourage those fishermen to move to sectors.
• Recognizing that fishermen need more flexibility, successfully educated NMFS law enforcement that catch share programs are designed to allow participants to have in-season quota overages as long as they successfully lease or purchase additional quota by the end of the season.
• At its November meeting, the Council modified common pool measures that will be effective May 1, 2010. The GOM cod trip limit will be 800 lbs./DAS to a maximum of 4,000 lbs/trip. A pollock trip limit of 1,000 lbs./DAS and 10,000 lbs./trip will be adopted. The Regional Administrator will be authorized to modify trips limits or DAS counting to reduce the likelihood that the ACL of any stock is exceeded, or to facilitate the harvest of nay ACL.
• The Council tasked the Interspecies Committee to consider catch share issues and the possibility of combining management plans.
• The Council voted to initiate a joint scallop/groundfish action to allow the transfer of yellowtail flounder between groundfish sectors and scallop sectors. The details on this action are not yet developed.

Unfortunately, groundfish sectors are coming into being at the same time that fishermen are faced with historic cuts in annual allowable catch limits. These low limits are due both to the failures of the current system to prevent overfishing and to new conservation requirements in the Magnuson Stevens Act. As a result, many fishermen who, all else equal, would do considerably better under sectors than the current system will be struggling to stay financially solvent over the next few years.

We are working with additional sectors up and down the coast to help them develop profitable business plans and secure credit to maximize the benefits of fishing under catch shares.
In November, we brought Alaskan industry members to New England to talk about the four catch share programs in Alaska. We specifically had them talk about the different design options that were used to meet the various biological, economic and social goals of each fishery. The Alaskan catch share programs used a variety of design options to protect remote fishing communities and small boat owners, so this message definitely resonated with New Englanders.

EDF is currently working with Connecticut Sea Grant, Rhode Island Sea Grant and the University of Maine to assess the goals and concerns of groundfish and monkfish fishery stakeholders in the development of catch shares management in New England. We will provide objective, constructive information to the New England Fishery Management Council on the range of goals and concerns expressed and catch share design options for addressing them.

EDF’s first draft of our catch shares manual was released in September, Catch Shares Design Manual: A Guide for Fishermen and Managers. It 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.

In October, the New England Fishery Management Council and the Fisheries Leadership and Sustainability Forum, a partnership of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University, the Center for Ocean Solutions managed by the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, and Environmental Defense Fund, Incorporated, hosted a catch shares training for New England Council members and staff. Experts from Canada, New Zealand, and the US attended to speak about their experiences with design and implementation.

In the months leading up to the sector vote, support for catch shares far outweighed opposition in the regional media. As fishermen come to grips with low catch limits and a new management system, however, opponents have been more vocal than supporters. In response, we have had to increase our regional media focus in order to answer misinformation about catch shares and addressing genuine concerns about catch share design.

Final Report, April 1, 2010

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) staff continues to support managers and industry leaders in an increasingly broad and rapid transition to catch shares in many different New England fisheries. In June 2009, the New England Fishery Management Council voted unanimously to establish voluntary catch share “sectors” to rebuild depleted fish stocks and the fishing economy in the ailing groundfish fishery. EDF is grateful for the generous funding from the Walker Foundation, which has enabled our staff, in close coordination with NGO, fishing industry and agency allies, to work through the priority issues critical to the successful implementation of groundfish sectors by May 1, 2010.

The new groundfish plan includes 19 voluntary sectors or fishing cooperatives; 812 boats (over 95 percent of the total annual harvest) have signed up to fish under sectors starting in May 2010. Our emphasis has been on helping fishermen to be as profitable as possible under the new system.

Catch shares are not new to New England. In 2003, the New England Council approved a proposal from a group of Cape Cod fishermen for a voluntary fishing cooperative-based catch share for any hook and line fisherman willing to fish under a fixed quota. Two years later, another small group of fishermen came forward, also willing to fish under fixed quotas in exchange for relief from other rules, and the Council approved an additional sector, this time for gillnetters, in 2005.

Fishery management in New England is now undergoing a fast paced evolution, and the federal government has responded to New England's lead. Within two weeks of her confirmation in early 2009, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the new head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), had convened environmental and industry leaders in Washington DC to discuss New England’s new groundfish rule. She then made $16.7 million available to support the region’s transition to sectors.

The New England sectors received a total of $47 million in FY09 and FY10 federal appropriations to assist with the transition to catch shares. This level of funding is proving transformative. For example, good data collection systems enable sound science, compliance with catch limits, and business functions such as tradability of quota shares. NMFS is now able to fully cover both dockside monitoring and at-sea observer coverage, and to pursue development of electronic at-sea monitoring technology to decrease the cost of high monitoring coverage as industry ultimately takes over these costs.

Unfortunately, New England’s groundfish sectors are coming into being at the same time that fishermen are faced with historic cuts in annual allowable catch limits. As a result, and despite the federal transition funds, many fishermen who, all else being equal, would do considerably better under sectors than previously will be struggling to stay financially solvent over the next few years, a situation that underscores the importance of new business ideas and careful planning to maximize revenue potential.

Given these economic considerations, following the New England Council’s approval of catch shares in June 2009, EDF set out to ensure that fishermen would have the tools and knowledge they would need to make the transition successful. With Walker Foundation support, Emilie Litsinger led a road trip throughout New England with three British Columbia catch share experts, meeting with over 100 fishermen and 30 fishery managers. The road trip gave New Englanders the chance to talk directly with fishermen who had been through a similar process, and to gain a deeper understanding of how catch shares work, including quota management, monitoring practices, marketing possibilities, and business strategies to improve their bottom line.

Also, in partnership with a lifelong fisherman, we led a third successful fishermen's exchange to British Columbia in August 2009 (similar to the previous exchanges we held last year, with support from the Walker Foundation) for New England and Mid-Atlantic groundfishermen and monkfishermen. These exchanges allow the visiting fishermen to see how catch shares work in action, and learn how practices such as gear selection, quota trading, electronic monitoring and observer coverage, and deals with processors can make the fishery more environmentally responsible and profitable. The exchanges also facilitate valuable personal interactions, giving fishermen the opportunity to learn from their peers’ experience.

In October, the New England Council and the Fisheries Leadership and Sustainability Forum (a partnership between EDF and several leading academic institutions studying fisheries policy) hosted a catch shares training for Council members and staff. In November, we brought Alaskan industry members to New England to talk about the four catch share programs in Alaska, which use a variety of design options to protect remote fishing communities and small boat owners. This message definitely resonated with New Englanders.

In the months leading up to the sector vote, support for catch shares in New England far outweighed opposition in the regional media. But as fishermen come to grips with low catch limits and a new management system, opponents have been more vocal than supporters. In response, we have increased our regional media focus in order to respond to misinformation as well as genuine concerns about catch shares.

Support from the Walker Foundation has enabled EDF to work with some sectors with the Northeast Seafood Coalition and some independent sectors to assist them with business planning, which will help fishermen be successful under the new system. Although we had originally hoped to work with all of the sectors operating within the Northeast Seafood Coalition (NSC), we have been stymied by the political opposition to catch shares, which has been centered in Gloucester, MA, NSC's home base. As a result, we are focusing our attention on sectors in other fishermen’s associations in Maine, southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island who have welcomed our support.

Ultimately, this stage of sector implementation involves hundreds of fishermen individually learning how to make this new system work for them. As one sector manager told us the other day, "I'm seeing guys figure this out. They're spending their own money buying and modifying new gear to fish more selectively. They're developing incentives to get their captains to avoid by-catch." With the help of the Walker Foundation, EDF is working to foster exactly this kind of confidence, optimism, and capacity among fishermen and managers through training, education, and other transition support services.

Final Financial Report

Personnel (includes benefits) $486,190
Consultants 125,279
Travel 53,380
Regional Meetings 62,795 Printing/Supplies/Media 82,653
EDF Indirect Costs @ 16% 145,858

Total project expenses: $956,155

EDF Site Visit
Foundation Site Visit to EDF Boston Office Reviewing progress with Catch Shares

Purpose

Catch shares are market-based fisheries management that make it possible to protect the environment, increase profits, create more full-time jobs and save fishermen’s lives. EDF is overcoming barriers to making catch shares the default management tool for fisheries across the U.S. We are working with fishermen and managers to design catch share systems that best fit local economic and ecological conditions.


The New England Fishery Management Council is poised to adopt a new groundfish management plan that converts more than half the fleet to catch share management. The Northeast Seafood Coalition, the largest groundfish trade association in New England, has committed to designing and managing 13 of the 19 "sectors" or fishing cooperative-based catch shares. NSC has asked EDF for help in designing business plans for the sectors. This is one of the most highly leveraged opportunities we have to ensure that the fishery successfully moves to catch share management.

Scope

The ocean’s once bountiful fishery resource now teeters on the brink of environmental and economic disaster in many regions in the U.S. A recent assessment of New England groundfish found that 15 of 20 groundfish stocks are either overfished, undergoing overfishing or both. New research provides a clear road map for fisheries managers to reverse years of declining fish stocks by implementing catch shares, a market-based management approach. Catch share programs replace complex rules dictating how fishing will be practiced, with a method to hold fishermen directly accountable for meeting a vital conservation target: scientifically determined catch limits. Enthusiasm for catch share programs is mounting among fishermen and managers and the required federal legislative framework is in place. There are 19 proposals for catch shares within the New England groundfish fishery alone. Success in the New England groundfish fishery will help provide a model for the region and the country.

Project Link http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/green/articles/2009/12/15/new_fishing_plan_offers_success/

Amount Approved
$25,000.00 on 6/24/2009 (Check sent: 7/24/2009)


  Related Organizations
Environmental Defense Fund  


Attachments
NE Fisherman
NE Fisherman
EDF Site Visit
Port Clyde Fish Market
Boston Globe Editorial 12.09 "New fishing plan offers success" (PDF)

Address
257 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10010
(MapQuest)


Phone
(212) 505-2100
(512) 478-5161
(212) 505-2375 (fax)

Contacts


Barbara A McCullough
Senior Foundations Officer, Environmental Defense
Jessica Morten
Development Assistant, Institutional Giving
Margaret Henkels
Foundations Officer
Robin Hinton
Institutional Giving Coordinator, Environmental Defense Fund
Sharon Nadel
Grant Writer

Posted 3/31/2009 12:03 AM
Updated   12/4/2012 4:46 PM

  • Nonprofit


NE Fisherman
NE Fisherman, photo by Tim Connor

NE Fisherman
Photo by Tim Connor

 
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