What You Can do to Save the Oceans Today
If you do one thing today, please make it this:
Add your signature to the online petition (http://actionnetwork.org/campaign/groundfish_amendment16) to end overfishing in New England. Friends in the area have been working with the Pew Trust and New England commercial fisherment to restore our historic cod and groundfish fishery.
Here is the best explanation I've found for the changes needed: it's a little tricky to follow because some of the terminology sounds counterintuitive. For example, if you are FOR ocean conservation wouldn't you want to support "time at sea limits"? (or days at sea) Sounds logical until you play it out. "Time at Sea" is untenable because a fisherman will maximize his catch for his limit of time at sea. So, if you have caught your total allowable catch of cod, but you still have time at sea, any additional cod you pull up are wasted to you and tossed. You're not allowed to even bring it in as by-catch.
This is quite compelling, hear it from the fishermen.
- Audio: WBCN interview of Peter Baker, Manager of Pew's New England Fisheries Campaign, and fisherman Glen Libby, of Midcoast (Maine) Fishermen's Association - Boston Sunday Review - May 17, 2009
Overfishing continues on 13 depleted groundfish stocks, including signature species such as Atlantic cod and many of the flounders - restaurant favorites. Current systems do not work to protect fishstocks, does not support fishermen, does not support fishing communities. The current legislation controls or micromanages fishermen, without focusing on the results desired i.e. more sustainable fisheries.
Bycatch, fish caught unintentionally while targeting another species, is poorly monitored, largely unlimited, and results in enormous quantities of dead fish being dumped overboard.
The proposed changes in the Magnuson Stevens Act will enable cooperatives to determine and share catch limits, "sector limits" with oversight. So if fisherman A has caught too much cod, they can pool their catch with others who've caught under their limit. Cooperative approaches proposed, actually put the incentives in the hands of the fishermen whose very livelihood depends on proper managment. This system has been working much better to achieve the desired results (more environmental and economic sustainability results) everywhere else it's been implemented. Our current system is only implemented in two other fisheries, which are getting similarly poor results.
- Please see: End Overfishing in New England- Pew Environmental Group, here. At that link, there are more articles too like this excellent one in the New York Times: Move to Redefine New England Fishing, here.
- At the Pew Group page, there's also a very good audio clip for those interested in further (or more articulate!) explanations. Listen to the fishermen on the audio clip, it's quite compelling especially on the discards or bycatch.
What are CSF's - Community Supported Fisheries
Modeled on CSA's Community Supported Agriculture model, CSFs aim to give fishermen the advantage of predictable income and predictable buyers for their catch. The "catch" with the model is that they are not currently focused on sustainable seafood as a priority. The hope from a group of sustainable seafood mavens with whom I regularly meet, is that this CSF model takes steps in the right direction to building a local food community, supporting local fishermen, and by doing those things we'll have a stronger voice and more influence on the priorities down the road.
I was, at first, opposed to the idea because I saw too many endangered fish on their lists. I think I'm persuaded that the benefits outweigh the hardline approach. I'd rather have a conversation with fishermen about why this is important than try to work through a fishmonger, who answers to a manager, who answers to a corporate structure.
My friend Roz articulated it well, I think:
"Although I am not entirely happy with the selection of fish that this CSF provides, this is an economic model that I want to support. I am hoping that as time goes by and the fishermen receive more money per pound for their catch, they may be more amenable to focussing on fish that are better choices from a sustainability standpoint. I think that I will be better able to make my voice heard as a customer -- expressing which fish I want in my share and which fish I try to avoid -- than if I was not part of their constituency at all.
It's really important to me to support fishing families. I have some friends who are fishermen and I have many friends who live in Gloucester, so this is a way that I can show my support for the fishing community while working within the system to move toward a more sustainable model."
What else is going on with our Fish Friends
Read about the worldwide Tuna Boycott in the Wall Street Journal and a collection of responses gathered by the wonderful Sam Fromartz at Chewswise, What Should Nobu Do on Bluefin Tuna? Some of my best fish friends are quite clear in asking honest questions of Nobu and the filmmaker behind "End of the Line." A good read.
- The owners of the UK chain Pret a Manger will no longer serve tuna. A victory, see the story here.