Posts Tagged policy

Feb 26 2019

Environmental Impact Displacement in Fisheries & Food

A recent policy perspective paper in Conservation Letters, Lewison et al. 2019 (open access), summarized several examples of environmental impact ‘displacement,’ an important policy concept with implications for fisheries and food.

Examples of environmental impact displacement

Environmental impact displacement is when a conservation policy designed to reduce impact in one area, displaces it to another area, sometimes making the overall problem worse. Researchers cite sea turtle bycatch in swordfish fisheries as an example of displacement in fisheries: U.S. Pacific swordfish fishing was curtailed to protect sea turtles caught as bycatch. However, lower U.S. catch increased foreign swordfish demand which ended up killing more sea turtles as foreign swordfish fisheries had higher rates of bycatch.

ProPublica and the New York Times recently published a long exposé about how a U.S. policy meant to reduce carbon emissions (by increasing biofuel use) raised demand for palm oil in Southeast Asia, which actually increased emissions and jumpstarted the palm oil/biodiversity crisis (this example is also cited in Lewison et al.).

The viral Ocean Cleanup Project is another example of environmental displacement; the crowdfunded campaign was trying to remove marine debris from the great Pacific garbage patch by sweeping a giant net-like object across the ocean. However, if it had worked as intended (it broke), it would have killed many more organisms than the trash it was trying to remove from the ocean.

Environmental displacement in fisheries & food

The concept of environmental impact displacement is important to consider in fisheries management and marine conservation. The swordfish case above is a good example of displacement in individual fisheries, but there are other areas of fishery management that should consider environmental impact displacement. For example, no-take marine protected areas often increase fishing pressure outside the area being protected, nullifying the protection. In some cases, displacing fishing pressure benefits the ecosystem, but often it does not.

Zooming out in scale raises larger systemic questions about food: Consider fisheries and marine conservation as part of a broader, global system of food and ecological preservation. A legitimate argument can be made that fulfilling fishery potential and consuming more seafood is good for the planet—it provides low-carbon, low-impact protein.

As the developing world continues to acquire wealth, global demand for animal-protein will continue to rise. The more seafood that is eaten in place of cow, the better, since bovine farming is the largest driver of rainforest and biodiversity loss on the planet. Not only is seafood the lowest-impact animal protein, several kinds of seafood (e.g. farmed bivalves and wild-caught pelagics) are among the lowest impact foods of any kind.

Solutions to environmental displacement

Lewison et al. 2019 outline ways to reduce environmental impact displacement that can be applied to fisheries management and global food systems. The first step, researchers state, is explicitly considering displacement in policy design, scoping, and evaluation. Fishery managers should evaluate and understand the biological, economic, and social outcomes of proposed policies to avoid issues like accidentally increasing turtle bycatch across the world or raising fishing pressure in an area surrounding an MPA.

Other ways to avoid displacement include:

  • Think large-scale to consider all economic/biological/social relationships
  • Enact both demand-side and supply-side policies
  • International trade agreements and cooperation as a holistic approach to global conservation

Conservation groups should consider the global food system and environmental impact displacement in their advocacy; policy makers and natural resource managers should consider environmental impact displacement in their decision-making processes. Conservation will be more effective with a larger, broad approach—particularly with fisheries and food. Lewison et al. 2019 is open access and available here.

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Nov 22 2012

Sea Otters likely to be legislative focus for Unted Fisherman of Alaska this year

Sea otters and the Arctic are two focal points for Alaska’s top fishing group at both state and federal policy levels.

United Fishermen of Alaska is the nations largest industry trade group representing nearly 40 organizations. At its recent annual meeting UFA outlined several of its policy watches prior to the legislative session; the group also gave out awards and made a job offer.

UFA is working closely with state and federal overseers to craft a management plan for exploding populations of sea otters in Southeast Alaska. The mammals, which were reintroduced to the region in the 1950s, are feasting on fishermen’s shellfish catches and completely wiping out stocks in prime areas. Sea otters are protected under the Endangered Species Act and may only be hunted by Alaska Natives for traditional uses.

“I think there are opportunities for Alaska Natives to more readily use sea otters in their art, and there also is the need for a management plan,” said UFA executive director Mark Vinsel.  “One thing that is lacking in the US policy is consideration for exploding species. That is a situation that all parties see happening here with sea otters in Southeast Alaska.”

Read the full article at SEAFOOD.COM


Nov 8 2012

National ocean policy sparks partisan fight

 Partisan battles are engulfing the nation’s ocean policy, showing that polarization over environmental issuesdoesn’t stop at the water’s edge.For years, ocean policy was the preserve of wonks. But President Obama created the first national ocean policy, with a tiny White House staff, and with that set off some fierce election-year fights.

 Conservative Republicans warn that the administration is determined to expand its regulatory reach and curb the extraction of valuable energy resources, while many Democrats, and their environmentalist allies, argue that the policy will keep the ocean healthy and reduce conflicts over its use.

The wrangling threatens to overshadow a fundamental issue — the country’s patchwork approach to managing offshore waters. Twenty-seven federal agencies, representing interests as diverse as farmers and shippers, have some role in governing the oceans. Obama’s July 2010 executive order set up a National Ocean Council, based at the White House, that is designed to reconcile the competing interests of different agencies and ocean users.

Apr 5 2012

Federal Government Holds Hearing on the National Ocean Policy’s Effect on Fishing

On March 22, 2012, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans & Insular Affairs held an oversight hearing titled Empty Hooks: The National Ocean Policy is the Latest Threat to Access for Recreational and Commercial Fishermen. 

During that hearing, George Mannina testified on exactly what policy decisions are having on fishing in the United States. See his testimony below:

Testimony of George J. Mannina, Jr.


Before the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs Regarding National Ocean Policy

March 22, 2012

Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of this Subcommittee, I am pleased to be here today.  I was privileged to serve as Counsel to this Subcommittee for eight years prior to becoming the Chief Counsel and Staff Director for the Republican members of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee before it was merged into the Committee on Natural Resources.  During my years with the Subcommittee and Committee, and since that time, I have worked on numerous ocean policy issues.  I am testifying today in my individual capacity and not on behalf of any client or of my firm, Nossaman LLP, although one of our associates, Audrey  Huang, has worked with me on this testimony.

Read Mannina’s full testimony here


Jan 28 2012

LITTLE FISH, BIG INDUSTRY: Proposed Restrictions on the Menhaden Industry Threaten Atlantic Coastal Economies


Just as scientists note the complex interdependence of species in the natural world, economists note a similar kind of interdependence at work with industries, communities, and livelihoods. With so much already on the line during these trying times, menhaden policies based on disputed, inconclusive ecological theories could yield devastating impacts on this economic web of life. 


With an economy struggling to regain equilibrium, governments at all levels have adopted policies aimed at triggering a resurgence in job growth and economic stimulus. Unfortunately, the prospect of some new policies may create more challenging conditions for one important industry based on a small and prolific fish – the Atlantic menhaden.

Most Americans know little about menhaden, an oily fish more likely to be found in their medicine cabinets than on their dinner plates. Prized as one of the main sources for fish oil and fish meal, menhaden are also found in hundreds of household items, from margarine to pet food to salad dressing. The fish also make great bait for crabbers and lobstermen. All told, the resource supports thousands of jobs – directly and indirectly – and generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually, in effect, representing a significant path towards improving the country’s dour economic circumstances.

But this path may become fraught with obstruction, which largely stems from disagreement about the sustainability of the fish and mounting pressure on the regulatory authority that oversees its management. Lauded as a victory for environmental and recreational angling groups who have long dismayed of commercial menhaden fishing, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a deliberative body of representatives from all 15 Atlantic coast states, recently voted to set new “safe harvest” limits on menhaden. Before they are implemented, the ASMFC Menhaden Board – a committee comprised of state fisheries professionals and political appointees – will need to determine the regulations that will achieve these newly approved goals.  The question is: will they implement policies that cause economic harm to the industry and, consequently, the myriad jobs and communities that rely on it?


Read the rest of the article on Saving Seafood.