Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Knowing where the parrotfish are: modeling sensitive parrotfish (Labridae: Scarini) habitats along the Brazilian coast

Parrotfish (Labridae: Scarini) are large (and beautiful!) herbivorous fishes that play a critical functional role in reef environments when they feed.  By grazing on algae, they actively affect the structure and composition of benthic communities, mainly by maintaining algae  free corals. Even though these species used to have relatively low commercial interest in the past, when others, more appreciated and usually higher in the food chain (e.g.: predators) were available, they are now a favorite target. This is true for many parts of the world, including Brazil, where parrotfish have been increasingly exploited, with many of them already showing signs of depletion. In particular, three species, Scarus trispinosus (Valenciennes, 1840), Sparisoma frondosum (Agassiz, 1831) and Sparisoma axillare (Steindachner, 1878), currently labeled as threatened, have been intensively targeted in Brazil, mostly on the northeastern coast. 
That means we have to care about parrotfish as well, before they suffer the same fate as other large predatory fish fished to their commercial exhaustion. One way to do that is through an ecosystem approach, which, in the case of reef fisheries should include careful marine spatial planning of reef use to ensure the protection of the relevant habitats of key species. For that, it is a requirement to have a solid knowledge of species-environment relationships and to identify priority areas for conservation and management. The article “Modeling sensitive parrotfish (Labridae: Scarini) habitats along the Brazilian coast” maps the distribution of these three parrotfish species, showing their hotspots of occurrence along the Brazilian coast.
The modeling results brought about the most sensitive habitats along the Brazilian coast that indicate the best areas to be protected. Specifically, this study confirmed the suitability of existing marine protected areas, such as Parcel Manuel Luís, Atol das Rocas, Fernando de Noronha, Abrolhos Archipelago, and Trindade. It also indicated the potential of enhancing the protection in such locations, including its surrounding areas and buffer zones, besides suggesting the full protection of some some additional hotspots. 
However, the article did not disregard the fact that today there is an important group of fishermen that depends on parrotfish exploitation and that simply closing all important areas could have the fishermen deemed illegal and could threaten their wellbeing. Therefore, it is suggested that, in addition to establishing new protected areas, fishery management should focus on measures that regulate fishing operations, such as temporary closures and restrictions on non-selective fishing gear in unprotected places. The way to assure that these species continue performing their ecological role while also being part of our diet may require a compromise between different degrees of conservation measures (e.g., permissive vs. restrictive). 
Now we know where to protect such important species in Brazil and we also suggest the first steps on how to do it. The question is: who will take the next step?

by Natalia C. Roos

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Interview with Dr. Rashid Sumaila

Dr. Rashid Sumaila is a prominent Fisheries Economist and Professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada (http://www.fisheries.ubc.ca/faculty-staff/rashid-sumaila). He is deeply interested in how economics, through integration with ecology and other disciplines, can be applied to ensure sustainable use of  environmental resources.

FEME: Some authors (for example, Acemoglu &Robinson. 2013. Why Nations Fail, 2013) argue that, in general, fewer laws and regulations and less bureaucracy could help nations achieve higher levels of development. Do you agree with this view? Do you think the same principles could be applied to fisheries management?

Rashid Sumaila: The problem I see with this statement is that these authors say: “… fewer laws and regulations and less bureaucracy could help nations achieve higher levels of development”. Two questions immediately come to mind.

First, what do the authors mean by ‘fewer laws’? Does it mean that if one country has 10 regulations and another has a million for the management of similar fisheries, for example, would reducing regulations to 9 and 999,999 for the two fisheries, respectively, help the two to achieve higher levels of development? Second, what do the authors mean by development: higher GDP, higher score in the UN Development Index (HDI)?
If it is GDP then no regulation may be the best but if it is the latter (i.e. the level of HDI), it depends.

Given the last paragraph, I do not agree with the authors because the important thing is to implement an optimal set of regulation to help managers and policy makers achieve their goals for the fishery.

FEME: Many papers have debated fishing subsidies, including your publication from 2010 (Journal of Bioeconomics DOI 10.1007/s10818-010-9091-8). Would you consider subsidies (the capacity enhancing subsidies) as one mechanism for market regulation, once they support economic and ecologically unsustainable fisheries? Could the reduction or even the ceasing of those subsidies stimulate actors involved in fishing activity to produce sustainable innovation and protection of fish stocks?

Rashid Sumaila: The justification for imposing taxes or providing subsidies to an economics sector comes from the existence of externalities, which occurs when producing or consuming a good causes an impact on third parties not directly related to the transaction. Positive externalities have a positive impact while negative externalities impact third parties negatively. Hence, to achieve maximum benefits for society, subsidies are provided in the case of positive externalities, and taxes are imposed in the case of negative externalities.
Since the provision of capacity-enhancing or harmful subsidies results in overfishing of fish stocks, it makes no economic sense.

So the answer to your questions are yes eliminating those subsidies would reduce overfishing while stimulating fishers innovate.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Enough of ghost fishing: turning old fishing nets in skateboards and sunglasses.

According to the United Nations, every year an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic pollution enters our oceans, and fishing nets (10% of all waste) are one of the most harmful forms of this destructive waste. More than 690 marine species are known to interact with marine litter. Turtles mistake floating plastic for jellyfish, and globally around one-third of all turtles are estimated to have eaten plastic in some form. The same is true for seabirds. Plastic also acts as a chemical magnet for environmental pollutants, such as metals, fertilizers, and persistent organic pollutants. These are adsorbed onto the plastic. When an animal eats the plastic “meal”, these chemicals make their way into their tissues and, in the case of commercial fish species, can make it into our dinner plates. Plastic waste is the scourge of our oceans, killing our wildlife, polluting our beaches, and threatening our food security. However, there are solutions!


On the coastline of Chile, the team behind Bureo Skateboards is helping out in style!The company uses some of these old fishing nets to make skateboard decks and sunglasses.
The three founders of Bureo – David Stover, Ben Kneppers and Kevin Ahearn – began working with the Chilean fishermen in 2013, after realizing that something had to be done about these abandoned nets. The team then set up a program called “Net Positiva” in late 2013. The program established net collection points, where fishermen can discard nets that they now consider useless for fishing. What is useless and over for some can be just the beginning for others. And the beginning takes multiple forms here. First of all, Bureo pays the local communities for every kilogram of fishing net collected. Such funds are administered by local NGO’s alongside with the leaders of local fishing syndicates. The idea is that the money be used on education and waste management programs aiming to prevent various forms of ocean plastic pollution.
Finally, the old nets are transported to a warehouse, sorted, shredded and melted down, before they are made into nylon pellets and injection-molded into Bureo’s signature fish-scale-patterned skateboards and sunglasses. One new skateboard requires 3 square meters of used nets.
Bureo, a word that comes from the native Mapuche Chilean language meaning “waves”, received seed funding from StartUp Chile and from IDEA, a Northeastern University’s venture accelerator fund. They have also received support from Patagonia’s “$20 Million and Change Fund", which was set up by the Patagonian founder Yvon Chouinard to support entrepreneurs who are “working with nature rather than using it up”.
Bureo is now looking to extend “Net Positiva” to fishing communities around the world, which will broaden the reach of its wave of positive change. We, here in Brazil, hope to see this wave coming soon to our shores!

by Maria Grazia Pennino

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Matching Fishers’ Knowledge and Landing Data to Overcome Data Missing in Small-Scale Fisheries

Since Warren Morrill’s 1967 article addressing the knowledge of the Caribbean fishermen about fish behavior, scientists have studied fishermen’s ecological knowledge on the marine environment. And that is for a good reason, several studies have shown since then that fishermen have detailed historical and current information on ecological, behavioral processes, size and distribution of fish stocks. Fishermen have also provided insights on best ways to manage fisheries. However, the recognition of such knowledge has not been a smooth process by the academia, and the topic is still hotly debated.
The article "Matching fishers' knowledgeand landing date to overcome missing data in small-scale fisheries" shows an important use of fishermen's knowledge: it could potentially provide fishing data for data poor areas. Such areas are predominantly tropical developing countries, where small-scale fisheries usually prevail. Such type of fisheries has a multi-species nature, with many scattered landing sites, which hinders the registration of fishing information.
In this article, 82 fishermen ranked the abundance of fish species, which allowed the calculation of Capture Per Unit Effort (CPUE) for 2013, 2003 and 1993. These CPUE were contrasted to other available data sources: scientific sampling of fish landing (2013) governmental statistics (2003), and information provided by expert fishers (1993), respectively. Even though fishermen were really good at providing information about their best catches, their memory was a bit sloppy when it came to remembering average catches, which are those that do not stand out in their daily catches or in their daily chats. Besides showing that fishermen’s knowledge has some caveats, these findings also have implications for management. Even though management is based on official data, fishermen will continue believing in their own perception of CPUE, threatening the success of any management action, unless such action is followed by some close education work at the fishing community. As a conclusion, this study also suggests that, despite the shortcomings, fishermen’s knowledge is still relevant, especially when there is no other information available for comparison, as long as we bear in mind that fishermen will be more likely to remember their best moments. 

Reference cited:
Morril, W.T. Ethnoichthyology of the Cha-Cha. Ethnology, 1967.

by Ludmila de Melo Alves Damasio