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Leveraging markets to support sustainably managed fisheries

EDF works with seafood industry leaders and other stakeholders to support fisheries that are managed sustainably to ensure both ecological and economic success for the fishery.

EDF works to develop market-oriented solutions that reward or accelerate strong fisheries management, like Gulf Wild, a pioneering traceability program for Gulf of Mexico seafood. We also focus on implementing fisheries management systems that are proven to perform better in eco-certification programs such as the MSC. We believe this expertise can prove to be useful in collaborative approaches to reducing and eliminating IUU fishing.

Gulf Wild®

In the 2000s, EDF partnered with fishermen, scientists and regulators in a comprehensive effort to restore red snapper populations in the Gulf of Mexico, which had to declined to 3% of historical abundance. Within a few years of implementing secure fishing rights, red snapper populations quickly rebounded, as did the value of the fishery and hence the profitability of fishermen. However in 2010 the BP oil disaster threatened to undermine that progress - both in terms of the uncertain impact on red snapper populations, in addition to the market impact of consumer concerns over seafood safety. In partnership with leading fishermen and public health scientists, we helped launch GulfWild®, a first-of-its-kind seafood assurance program that linked traceability, sustainability and human health. The program was quickly adopted by leading retailers and restaurants, who valued the product quality and supply certainty that it offered. Looking forward, these critical supply chain actors have become active supporters in the regional and federal policy arenas to protect the sustainability gains made in the fishery.



Research on fisheries management and eco-certification

Certification of fisheries to a sustainability standard is designed to measure and potentially improve their performance. Catch share and other rights-based fisheries management programs are intended to align the economic incentives of fishermen with conservation goals, and hence increase the likelihood that these goals will be met. Given documented performance improvements from fisheries using catch share management, one might reasonably expect catch share managed fisheries to perform better against a sustainability standard than those managed using more conventional methods. Our study investigated differences in the assessment scores of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries managed with and without catch shares. Using Bayesian Belief Networks to model the complex relationships between fishery characteristics, management and MSC scores, our results show that fisheries using catch share management had a higher probability of exceeding a threshold level for several Performance Indicators. These differences were also apparent at higher aggregate scoring levels, which represent an aggregate of Performance Indicator scores. Higher-scoring MSC certified fisheries were about twice as likely to be managed with catch shares as without.

Parkes et al. 2016. The effects of catch share management on MSC certification scores. Fisheries Research 182: 18-27.

See links in project description

Timeframe: Jan. 01, 2010 -
Project Status: Ongoing
Contact: Timothy Fitzgerald
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Thematic Focus: Industry and Market Incentives, Governance and Management, Fostering Constituencies and Political Will
Geographic Areas: North America, Central America, Caribbean, Global
Activity Type: Project
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