“Equity in the Ecosystem”

September 22, 2008

A new report concludes that assigning individual property rights within the fishing industry staves off ecosystem collapse more frequently than other types of governance.

Management policies that assign catch rights to individuals may better stave off fishery collapse, according a report in Science. Christopher Costello, Steven D. Gaines, and John Lynham assembled a worldwide database of fisheries and catch statistics in 11,135 fisheries, from 1950 to 2003. By 2003, fisheries that have deployed “individual transferable quotas” collapse about half as frequently as fisheries that have no catch rights.

The impetus for the study came from the much-discussed 2006 study by Boris Worm et al, which predicted a collapse of all world fisheries by 2048. Costello, Gaines, and Lynham resolved that the community to date has focused on problems disproportionately to solutions. As a result, they happened upon inefficiencies in current management that might be rethought — in local ecololgical, economic, and social context. “The answer lies in the misalignment of incentives,” they write. “Even when management sets harvest quotas that could maximize profits, the incentives of the individual harvester are tyhpically inconsistent with profit maximazation for the fleet.”

Costello, Christopher, Steven D. Gaines, John Lynham. “Can Catch Shares Prevent Fisheries Collapse?” Science 321 (19 September 2008): 1678-1681.

See accompanying article, from which title of this post comes: Stokstad, Erik. “Privatization Prevents Collapse of Fish Stocks, Global Analysis Shows.” Science 321 (19 September 2008): 1619.


Babcock and Pikitch Seek Definition

June 25, 2008

By Sheril Kirshenbaum

Babcock, E. A. and E. K. Pikitch (2004). “Can we reach agreement on a standardized approach to ecosystem-based fishery management?” Bulletin of Marine Science 74(3): 685-692.

Unlike traditional single species fisheries management, ecosystem based management practices are brand new.  Thus the objectives, goals, and scientific methodology are not well defined to date.  For EBFM to move beyond single species management as the conceptual basis of US fisheries management, we must move from theory to a straightforward and convincing framework that is mutually agreed upon.  Inclusion of ecosystem values such as biodiversity and ecosystem function in fisheries management under US fisheries law will require the evolution of a consensus on a standardized, practical approach to EBM.

U.N. Fish Stocks Agreement and the Future of Fisheries

June 24, 2008

By Sheril Kirshenbaum

Plans have begun to review a 1995 treaty on management of migratory fish stocks because of research suggesting current yields are not sustainable.

According to Greenwire, plans have begun to review a 1995 treaty on management of migratory fish stocks because of research suggesting current yields are not sustainable. The treaty is known as the U.N. Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, otherwise known as the Fish Stocks Agreement (FSA).  It attempts to standardize conservation approaches, regional governance practice, scientific research and cooperation and enforcement of regional and international fishing laws.  Attention is back on the treaty after reports from the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization and the U.N. Environment Programme that most of the world’s stocks are either fully or overexploited.

There are a myriad of culprits including destructive fishing practices, illegal harvest, ineffective management, increasing global consumption, the dead zones, and beyond.  Scientists believe we face a looming food crisis.

According to the article, Western Hemisphere and South Pacific governments have been more willing to accept aggressive regulations, however Asian and European states appear less urgent to accomplish change.  Last year, the General Assembly called on states to enact strict permitting for their flagged vessels to fish in international waters and the UN is also considering drawing up a global list of vessels permitted to operate in the high seas and a “black list” of vessels suspected of illegal fishing practices.  In 2008, the focus is expected to be on illegal, unreported and unregulated high seas fishing.

The United States is not a member of the Law of the Sea convention, but was one of the first nations to sign and ratify the FSA.  However, the FSA has only gathered 68 state parties while Law of the Sea has 155 full members.  The UN Law of the Sea was designed to address territorial and navigation issues, and the FSA is often viewed as an addendum.

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2005

June 24, 2008

By Sheril Kirshenbaum


From:  Sheril Kirshenbaum
Re:  Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2005

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act


  • January 12, 2007, the President signed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 into law.
  • The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act governs federal marine fishery management.
  • This bill strengthens the 1996 provisions and extends the Act until 2013.

Key Amendments and Provisions in the Bill

  • Fishery Management Councils must establish scientific and statistical committees (SSCs) that will help develop and evaluate scientific information for the development of fishery management plans.
  • By 2008, the Secretary of Commerce must report any financial conflicts of interest of the Councils and SSC members to Congress.
  • Fishery management plans must establish a way to specify annual catch limits at a level that prevents overfishing.
  • Councils may submit a limited access privilege program (LAPP) to the Secretary for approval.  The LAPPs must promote fishing safety, fishery conservation and management
  • Establish a Fisheries Conservation and Management Fund to improve fishery harvest data collection, cooperative fishery research and analysis, and development of new technologies.
  • Establish a regionally-based cooperative research and management program.
  • Establish a program to identify research on deep sea corals, map the locations of deep sea corals, monitor activity in deep sea coral habitats, conduct research on deep sea corals and survey methods, and develop technologies to assist fishermen to reduce the interactions of fishing gear with deep sea coral.
  • Promote improved monitoring and compliance for high seas fisheries or fisheries governed by international fishery management agreements by several means.
  • Take actions to improve the effectiveness of international fishery management.
  • Establish a bycatch reduction program.
  • Klamath Salmon Plan and study
  • Rebuild summer flounder
  • Study the state of the science for advancing the concepts and integration of ecosystem considerations in regional fishery management
  • Develop a training course for Council members

Rosenberg tallies them up

June 24, 2008

Rosenberg, A. A., J. H. Swasey, and M. Bowman. 2006. Rebuilding US fisheries: progress and problems. Frontiers in and the Environment 4:303-308.

Rosenberg and friends here take us back to reality with a nice summary of rebuilding stocks in the US following the 1996 Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). Less than 5% of stocks have been rebuilt, while 82% are experiencing overfishing or are overfished.  The sense I get in reading this article is that there are a lot of very good intentions in the 1996 MSA reauthorization, also known as the Sustainable Fisheries Act, but on the ground the work just isn’t being done.  Ray Hilborn has argued here that the notion that traditional fisheries management has failed is an article of faith taken by conservation minded scientists and promulgated in what he calls “faith-based” assessments of fisheries generally published in Science and Nature.    Rosenberg’s analysis might suggest the opposite – that our faith in legislation such as the MSA (and the expected responses of management to legislation) has blinded us to real failings in fisheries management.  Rosenberg et al. do offer some hope – biomass in 48% of stocks is increasing, and those stocks that are rebuilding suggest the “importance of implementing large decreases in fishing mortality rates quickly.”  So in some sense, we know what to do (all we are saying is give fish a chance), and we have the mandate in the 1996 MSA (and the 2006 re-authorization), we just need the will to do it.

Sissenwine and Murawski on the new fisheries management paradigm

February 27, 2007
by Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sissenwine, M. and S. Murawski (2004). “Moving beyond ‘intelligent-tinkering’: advancing an ecosystem approach to fisheries.” Marine Progress Series 274: 291-295.

Sissenwine and Murawski are at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  NOAA is a scientific agency of the United States Department of Commerce focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere.  In this article, they consider the requirements for advancing ecosystem-based management approaches from the planning stages into practice.  They also discuss the roles of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

This article is focused specifically on fisheries management.  The authors begin by explaining the shift in terminology from Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management (EBFM) to Ecosystem Approaches to Fisheries (EAF).  In 2003, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concluded EAF is the better term because it takes into account ecosystem processes in the formulation of management measures.

In practice, EAF is not necessarily a new type of scheme and need not take an entirely new direction from traditional fisheries management.  However, EAF is much more inclusive in terms of diversity and stakeholder involvement.  Sissenwine and Murawski discuss the urgent need for both science and governance institutions to evolve using EAF to bridge traditional single-species paradigms with ecosystem management which includes human activities.  The authors believe that MPAs are useful and have an even greater role under the EAF.  They are a good tool for controlling fishing mortality, reducing bycatch, and mitigating fishery interactions.  Although EAF and MPAs are not synonymous, they can work in unison to maintain complex marine ecosystems.

Ecosystem-based approaches will continue to be viewed as a mechanism for resolving conflicting objectives arising from species-by-species approach and for integration of biology, oceanography, law and politics, economics, and other social sciences.  Sissenwine and Murawski emphasize the need for closer ties between science and management in order to recognize and incorporate fundamental uncertainties in how biological components are linked.  They recommend adaptive strategies so that the best practical solution will be chosen.  The main benefit of EAF is that it offers a more complete and integrated account of the full range benefits and costs to society associated with developing sustainable approaches for living marine resources.