The Nature Conservancy in partnership with Environmental Defense has developed an innovative way to make sustainable fishing a win-win situation for both conservationists and fishermen. By purchasing federal trawling permits and trawling vessels from fishermen in California, the Conservancy will provide the fishermen with the income necessary to find an alternate and sustainable way to make a living while protecting 3.8 million acres of ocean off California’s central coast from bottom trawling. This will allow degraded bottom habitats and fish species off the coast of central California to recover. For years fishermen have dragged large weighted nets along the ocean bottom, which damage the habitat and scoop up species not targeted by the fishermen that gets tossed back (usually dead) into the ocean as bycatch.
To date, six federal trawling permits and four trawling vessels have been purchased from commercial fishermen in Morro Bay, California. There are plans to purchase additional permits and vessels in other California coastal areas. This strategy offsets the economic implications associated with closing marine areas to fishing.
For now, the Conservancy plans to sit on the permits while the fish stocks recover. Eventually, the Conservancy may seek permission to lease back some permits to fishermen who would agree to fish responsibly and help create a certified market for sustainably harvested groundfish.
For more on this story see:
The New York Times article – Unlikely Partners Create Plan to Save Ocean Habitat Along with Fishing
The Nature Conservancy – California Marine
Environmental Defense – Pacific: West Coast North America