Welcome to Sustainable Fisheries
In an editorial and articles in this week's Nature, titled "Does Catch Reflect Abundance?", Daniel Pauly and Ray Hilborn resume their decade-long battle over the state of world fish stocks and how to manage fisheries sustainably. As Nature summarizes it, "In one piece, Daniel Pauly argues that 'catch data' of the number of fish caught are a vital tool for assessing the health of fish stocks. In their counterpoint piece, Ray Hilborn and Trevor Branch warn that over-reliance on this measure misses important subtleties and can misleadingly distil the health of entire ecosystems down to a landed tonnage. "This is far from an academic debate. If scientists cannot estimate fish numbers, and so the health of stocks, there is little hope that this resource can be exploited in a sustainable fashion," the editorial concludes.
Pauly has long been using raw catch data from FAO to pontificate about the state of world fisheries. Hilborn and colleague Trevor Branch argue that this is nonsense. They argue say that the changes in the amount of fish caught does not necessarily reflect the number of fish in the sea. In their view "A much better approach is to deduce the health of stocks region by region and fishery by fishery using scientific stock assessments, which collate all sorts of data – from the results of surveys conducted from research vessels to the catch per fishing effort, and the age and size distributions of the fish caught." Pauly argues that stock assessments are not available for many of the world's fisheries and are too costly for many third world countries. Hilborn and Branch counter that good data are available for 40% of the world's fisheries and data exist which could be assembled for another 40%.
TAGS: sustainable, fisheries, sustain, fish, fisheries management, Pauly, Hilborn, Nature, catch data, stock assessment
There has been extensive media coverage recently of the decisions taken by the New England Regional Council to cut the allowable cod catches in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank. The National Post likened it to the cod moratorium imposed in Newfoundland in 1992. That comparison is spurious. The New England Council voted to cut the catch limit for cod in the Gulf of Maine by 77% and on Georges Bank by 66%. John Bullard, the senior NOAA administrator for the area, described it as a slide towards oblivion: “It’s midnight and getting darker when it comes to how many cod there are,” he said. “There isn’t enough cod for people to make a decent living.” Fishermen decried the decisions, indicating that it would spell the end of the inshore fishery in that region.
At one time cod was vital to the economy of New England. In the 1700s, a “sacred cod” was bestowed on the State House in Massachusetts, where it hangs to this day as a symbol of the importance of cod fishing to the region. But that is no longer the case. The recent allowable catches have been low compared to the heyday and fishermen have not been catching their limits, a sure sign that the cod stocks were in decline. Some fishermen and environmentalists have said that overfishing was not the only reason for the paucity of cod, with some putting part of the blame on climate change. This aspect of the debate reminds one of the Newfoundland collapse. It is clear that biological productivity is changing as warming Atlantic waters in the south lead to an incursion of species from the south and a change in species assemblages. Normally overfished stocks off New England would rebound more quickly than in the less productive areas to the north. Will that happen again? Time will tell.
TAGS: sustainable, fisheries, fishing, sustain, cod,New England cod cuts, Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank, Newfoundland cod, New England Council
Below is a letter from Gus Etchegary, Chair of the NL Fishery Community Alliance, to NL Minister of Fisheries Dalley, which provides the rationale why the NL government's decision to allow Ocean Choice International (OCI) to ship yellowtail flounder round to China is short-sighted and poor public policy. Canadian jobs are being sacrificed to line the pockets of the Sullivan brothers and their foreign funders.
Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
TAGS: sustainable, fisheries, unsustainable practices,Gus Etchegary, NL government, export of unprocessed yellowtail, Mnister Dalley, Ocean Choice International, fishery jobs
Government insiders have indicated that the pressure is on to conclude negotiations of a Canada-EU free trade agreement within the next month or two. These negotiations have been ongoing for years. The Harper government has made securing this agreement a policy priority. Indeed, to achieve this they were prepared in 2009 to ignore vital Canadian interests and rushed to ratify a flawed set of amendments to the NAFO Convention.
Little attention has been paid to the potential implications for Canadian fisheries of the proposed agreement. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recently released a report, prepared by researcher Scott Sincair, which has brought these concerns into public focus.
According to this report, the proposed Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) threatens the sustainability of fisheries and fishing communities. The proposed treaty could undermine the ability of Canadians to pursue public policies that curb domination of the fisheries by large corporations and help spread the benefits of the fishery more widely among independent fishers and coastal communities.
Leaked documents reveal that the EU is pressuring Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec to abolish minimum processing requirements for fish. Minimum processing requirements provide provincial governments with critical leverage to maximize local benefits. Sinclair notes that “without such regulation, these decisions would be left to large fish processing companies to make with no consideration for any other factors than how it affects their corporate bottom line.”
With respect to the inshore fishery and coastal communities, there are many clear conflicts between the new treaty rules and Canadian fisheries regulations and regulatory authority. Sinclair opines that one of the first casualties is likely to be minimum processing requirements, which remain an important policy lever for provincial governments in eastern Canada. Witness the recent controversy in Newfoundland over Ocean Choice's proposal to ship unprocessed fish to China. But the adverse implications for sustainable development of the fisheries are much broader, "largely because of the inherent limitations of the reservations to protect regulatory authority, especially at the provincial level". Agreements such as CETA are designed to eliminate public policies that favour local or national control and, under the guise of free market forces, to subordinate public policy to the interests of multinational corporations.
When the Harper government thumbed its nose at Parliament in December 2009 by ratifying NAFO amendments that gave the EU everything it had asked for the day after Parliament adopted a motion calling on the government to reject the amendments, many wondered whether the government's unseemly haste was linked to the CETA negotiations. There is now no doubt that this was indeed the case. The Harper government shamelessly traded away Canadian sovereignty over fisheries in order to facilitate agreement on a trade and investment treaty with the EU. It makes one want to weep.
TAGS: sustainable, fisheries, fish, sustainability, Canada-EU trade agreement, NAFO, sovereignty, export of unprocessed fish, Scott Sinclair, Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives
This past year there has been a fair bit of publicity about lobster gluts in the Maritime provinces resulting in lower prices to fishermen. The lobster industry -- worth about $580 million in the region -- has been battered in recent years, with prices dropping by a third within the last three years. According to the Lobster Council of Canada, prices are around $3 per pound, down from $4.50 per pound in 2009.Nonetheless, fishermen have been reluctant to make changes to the way the fishery is conducted that would limit their catch and prop up prices.
Last week former federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea who hails from PEI where the lobster fishery is vitally important stuck her neck out by suggesting that it's time the lobster fishery looked at boat quotas in response to slumping prices at the wharf. While there seemed to be a willingness in PEI to discuss this option, reaction from southwest Nova Scotia was more negative with comparisons made to groundfish quotas and congestion at the wharves as catches were monitored against quotas.
In essence what Minister Shea was suggesting was a form of supply management. Supply management systems exist in the Canadian dairy and agriculture sectors. As applied to the lobster fishery the idea would be to protect prices by controlling the quantity of lobster made available to the market at a given time. This would give the fishermen some leverage in dealing with buyers and the big purchasers at the market level.
The supply management system in the Canadian dairy/agriculture sectors has been under attack in various free trade negotiations. Given that it is interesting to see a Conservative cabinet minister float the trial balloon of quotas in the lobster fishery to regulate the flow of supply to the market.
TAGS: sustainable, fisheries, sustainability, Canadian lobsters, lobster glut, lobster quotas, Gail Shea