December 1, 2010
With almost 200 million gallons of oil recently spilled into the Gulf ecosystem, the region is suffering in many ways. Although the well is capped, the long-term ecological and economic effects of this disaster remain unknown, and we are forced to operate with tremendous uncertainty.
What we do know is that now, more than ever, fishery management systems that are already proven to waste fish, hurt ecosystems and are inefficient for businesses should be reconsidered.
The well is capped and clean-up efforts have started to wind down. Many people believe that oil-eating bacteria have cleaned up the Gulf waters and life is getting back to normal.
“We hope this is true, but we need to consider the reality that oil-related pollution continues to degrade in both the water column and bottom sediments, with negative impacts on the out-of-sight, underwater ecosystems, including deep-water coral reefs,” EDF’s Chief Oceans Scientist Doug Rader says.
“Toxic oil-based substances could make their way back into the food web in many ways.”
“We must understand the ways in which the basic fabric of the ecosystems of the Gulf has been altered in order to understand how to truly restore its weave,” said Rader.
See EDF Oceans Chief Scientist Doug Rader’s blog series on this topic.
Thanks to the formation of an eddy named Franklin, the Gulf Loop Current's normal path was altered just as oil from the BP disaster started to enter it. This eddy helped protect the Florida Keys’ valuable coral reefs, mangrove swamps and seagrass beds, plus the wetlands and beaches of the Atlantic Southeast.
While a lucky eddy helped the Southeast dodge one disaster, the significant trend of shortened fishing seasons is creating a more deliberate, and preventable, disaster.
Some fishermen have already gone out of business; those who are still in business often must go out in dangerous weather to fish before seasons close. Local fish can be hard to come by in the region.
There’s a better way to revitalize fish populations and get fishermen back on the water: catch shares.
Between the worst-ever oil spill this year, a decade of damaging hurricanes, and harmful regulations, Gulf and Southeast fisheries have been dealt many harsh blows.
Now more than ever, fishery management must be updated to make every fish count, for the environment and for fishermen, and to stabilize fishing businesses so they can better cope with disasters. Catch shares help make fishermen and communities more resilient to inevitable disasters.
EDF has partnered with industry to develop two new initiatives to help stabilize fishing businesses and improve fishery management after the BP oil disaster.
Protecting sustainable Gulf seafood markets
Reducing waste of valuable gulf fish
The Gulf Fisherman’s Association (GFA) is working to encourage fishermen to increase participation in IFQ management, land and account for red snapper, and help build local markets for the fish.
According to GFA president Glen Brooks, “We’re providing a temporary subsidy to help commercial grouper fishermen who operate east of Cape San Blas, Florida, (the area of highest discards) to obtain red snapper IFQ allocation. We want all fishermen to land their incidental catch of red snapper. This can help their business, and reduce snapper discards more.” The program is expected to run approximately January 2011 through June 2011. According to Brooks, “even paying the allocation lease price, it is still possible to make a small profit on red snapper incidental catch.” Learn more.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will review a catch shares amendment for the golden crab fishery next week at its meeting in New Bern, North Carolina. The Council will vote on “scoping,” or adding details to the amendment.