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Innovation and Fisheries Sustainability: TNC Shows the Way

December 12, 2011

A fascinating project by the Nature Conservancy:

Five years ago, the conservancy bought out area fishing boats and licenses in a fairly extreme deal — forged with the local fishing industry — to protect millions of acres of fish habitat. The unusual collaboration was enjoined to meet stricter federal regulations and the results of a successful legal challenge. But once the conservancy had access to what was essentially its own private commercial fishing fleet, the group decided to put the boats back to work and set up a collaborative model for sustainable fishing…

It has not been unheard of for environmental groups to buy boats and licenses and then to retire that part of the quota to take pressure off of an area fishery. But it was not an outcome that the fishermen or their coastal towns — Monterey, Half Moon Bay and Fort Bragg — wanted in this case…

So the conservancy agreed to lease back some permits and boats, but only if their sustainable conditions were met.

Perhaps the hardest one for the fishermen to accept was the automated posting system known as eCatch. But fishermen have come to believe that the data will show patterns — for example, high catch rates of certain species after full moons along the edge of the shallow water shelf in July — that will help them all predict the danger zones. Independent fisherman have joined the risk pool and eCatch system because they see benefits. By handing out free iPads, the conservancy made the posting of real-time results almost effortless…

Many of the fishermen have become fans of a system that yields profits and hardly any bycatch. [bold added]

More here.

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