Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
& NOAA Administrator
Thank you, [individual introducing you].
Distinguished members and Commissioner Damanaki: Thank you
for the invitation to speak with you today. It is an honor
and a privilege.
The reason I am here today can be summed up in three
interrelated ideas: food security, profitability, and
sustainability - healthy seafood for healthy people,
profitability for fishermen and sustainability of fisheries
and healthy oceans. The key to these three things lies in a
heretofore elusive goal: ending overfishing and managing our
fisheries to ensure recovery and rebuilding of stocks. Simple
in concept, yet complex to carry out.
As two of the world's largest harvesters of seafood and two
of the largest markets for seafood, the
European Union and the United States have vested interests in
the future of marine fisheries.
That investment can pay off in good jobs. Fishing jobs are
the lifeblood of many coastal communities. And each fishing
job creates other jobs - boat captains and their crews,
workers in seafood processing plants, truckers transporting
seafood from the dock to processors and elsewhere, retailers
selling key ingredients for seafood dinners, chefs and wait
staff in restaurants, and the tourism industry that hosts the
visitors who clamor for locally caught seafood. These jobs
create critical conditions for coastal communities and
economies to thrive.
More than 350,000 people are employed in fishing and fish
processing jobs in the European Union.i Much is
at stake as we work to revise management of marine fisheries.
So I am pleased to hear about your discussions of the
landmark reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.
I see many parallels between U.S. fisheries policies and your
Common Fisheries Policy reform. We can each learn from one
another. In my brief time today, I will summarize the lessons
we learned in crafting and implementing our policies as they
are relevant to your proposed reforms. And I will touch upon
some of our joint efforts about which I am enthusiastic.
Our key lessons revolve around the following essential
features for sustainable fisheries: science- based
decision-making, use of precaution when scientific
uncertainty exists, strong monitoring and enforcement and
firm deadlines, regionalization, and giving fishermen a stake
in the future. Let me take these in turn.
SCIENCE-BASED, PRECAUTIONARY MANAGEMENT WITH TEETH, REGIONAL
APPROACHES, AND INCENTIVES
Two keys to sustainable fisheries management are access to
the best available scientific advice and a precautionary
approach where there is scientific uncertainty. Within the
draft Common Fisheries
Policy, the EU Commission proposes to set the target catch at
or below the level that can produce the maximum sustainable
yield. Below the level would be precautionary, putting
priority on the long-term sustainability of the fishery and
therefore the fishermen.
I understand that there is general agreement among the EU
Member States on managing fish stocks according to the
maximum sustainable yield.
In the United States, fisheries management is guided by a
legal framework known as the Magnuson- Stevens Act, which was
first established by the U.S. Congress 35 years ago and most
recently reauthorized in 2006. This legislation, especially
its 2006 amendments, has transformed fisheries management in
the U.S. It provided the key ingredients that have enabled us
to turn the corner in ending overfishing and to rebuild
stocks to a healthy state.
Under the 2006 Magnuson-Stevens Act, we are required to end
and prevent overfishing through the use of annual catch
limits and accountability measures. We were required to set
limits on annual catches based only on scientific
information. The initial focus was on those stocks that were
subject to overfishing; we had four years to have catch
limits in place for them. By 2011, we had to accomplish the
same for all of the others - 528 federaly managed stocks and
stock complexes in total. That was a huge effort, but we now
have all of these annual catch limits in place save one.
The Fishery Management Councils' Scientific and
Statistical Committees (SSCs) provide the scientific guidance
needed to set these limits. Overfished U.S. stocks are
managed under plans designed to rebuild these stocks to
levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield - the
same approach proposed in the Common Fisheries Policy.
Moreover, we are required to also adjust annual catch limits
to make up for catches in the previous year that
inadvertently went over the limit. These measures have not
been easy to implement, and they have been fraught with
controversy. However, these measures are very clearly
working. Thanks to this strong legislation and the sacrifices
of fishermen, we are ending overfishing. "I can
finally see light at the end of the tunnel," one fisherman
said to me recently. Some overfished stocks
are recovering more quickly than others, as expected, and we
are preventing more stocks from becoming overfished or
As of the end of 2011, 79 percent of U.S. stocks with known
population levels (174 out of 258) are not overfished, which
means they are at or above a level able to provide maximum
sustainable fishing. 86 percent (222 stocks) are not subject
to overfishing. i.e., the rate at which fishing occurs can be
sustained or enable the stock to rebuild. Two weeks ago, we
announced that 6 more stocks had been rebuilt in 2011,
bringing the total number of stocks rebuilt since 1990 to 27.
51 others have rebuilding plans in place.
An additional key component to success is effective
enforcement of these management measures. Enforcement is
meant to stop cheating that leads to unfair competition and
diminished overall effectiveness of the management
Thus far, I've mentioned science-based decisions, use of
precaution, strong monitoring and enforcement. An additional
key element to success is regionalization of fishery
management. The same goals and laws apply to all regions, but
fishery management councils in each region propose
the specific management plans that regulate their fisheries.
Plans must adhere to the law and be approved by the federal
government, but they come from the region.
Each Regional Fishery Management Council knows its individual
fisheries best. They develop a tailored approach for each
fishery. Council debates are an important part of the
process. These debates encourage open, public participation,
a process that engages all stakeholders early in the process
and opens doors to creative solutions. Engaged stakeholders
are more likely to comply with management decisions, making
management easier and more effective. These councils are
similar to the regionalized approach envisioned under the
Common Fisheries Policy reform.
Another major challenge in fisheries is aligning short-term
economic incentives with long-term economic incentives. Far
too many fisheries flounder because short-term interests
dominate. Rights-based, market-based incentives can be
powerful tools in providing incentives to align short term
with the long term. One such tool is called 'Catch shares' in
the U.S. and 'Transferable Fishing Concessions' in the
This is an innovative, market-based management strategy.
Catch shares allocate a specific portion of the total
allowable catch to individuals, communities or other
entities. Catch shares help fishermen operate effectively
within annual catch limits. Catch shares also allow fishermen
greater flexibility in running their businesses and in making
fishing decisions, which can improve safety, profitability,
and quality of life for fishermen. In U.S. fisheries where
they have been implemented, catch shares have ended the race
to fish. In fisheries with catch share programs, fishermen no
longer need to race out in the middle of a storm, or have
their bottom line threatened by flooding the market with
product, because when they catch their allocation is up to
We faced many concerns in implementing our catch share system
in the United States that mirror many of your discussions:
questions of consolidation, impacts on small-scale fisheries,
and capacity reduction.
We have learned that none of these is an inevitable outcome;
each can be avoided if the program is designed in a smart
fashion. Consolidation and ownership limits can be set.
Set-asides of quotas for particular fleets or ports can be
established. Assistance in the form of permit banks and loan
programs can be provided to assist small entities and new
entrants consistent with management objectives. Around a
third of our federally managed stocks are now managed with
catch share programs. They have resulted in greater
profitability, safer fishing conditions, and lower by-catch -
a triple win.
Let me provide two examples of the flexibility that exists in
the construction of catch share programs.
Alaska has one of the most highly productive marine systems
in the world. In 1992, we created the Western Alaska
Community Development Quota (CDQ) program. The program allows
coastal Alaska Natives access to these fisheries. These are
small-scale fishermen who historically could not afford to
participate in many of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Island
(BSAI) fisheries. The goal of the
program is to promote fisheries-related economic development
in western Alaska. The program is a
federal fisheries program that involves 65 eligible coastal
communities who have formed six regional organizations,
referred to as Community Development Quota groups. The
Community Development Quota Program allocates a percentage of
all Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands quotas for
halibut, and crab to eligible communities. As a result of the
program, these Community Development Quota groups now have
multi-millions of dollars to invest in their communities and
Example two: Several catch share programs have provisions
that limit the transferability of quota in an effort to
ensure continued participation of communities and small
operators in the fishery. For example, the halibut and
sablefish programs limit who can transfer quota to whom by
vessel size and they limit the amount of quota that can be
transferred. These provisions have worked well to generally
maintain the historic characteristics of the fishery.
As you can see from these examples, catch shares can be a
good solution for certain fisheries. But they are not a
panacea for all fisheries and all species. Again, catch share
programs should be considered on a case-by-case basis and
molded to the specificities and needs of the individual
To sum up this part of my remarks: science, monitoring and
enforcement, regional councils, and market-based incentive
programs are working in concert toward sustainability,
profitability, safety, and food security.
Thus far, I have described some of the keys to our ability to
end overfishing and transition to sustainable and profitable
fishing. We still have a long way to go, but progress is
tangible. Long- term sustainability for fisheries however
depends on everyone playing by the rules. Rogue fishermen
undermine food security, profitability and
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing - also known as
IUU, or pirate fishing - looms large: a global economic loss
of $8-18 billion Euros a year. Pirate fishing is the second
largest producer of fishery products in the world and it
threatens the economic well-being of honest fishermen, the
fishing industry and fishing communities that support them.
IUU fishing results in seafood entering the market that is
lower cost because it has been harvested illegally. It
undermines fishermen who operate legally, threatens the
health and future profitability of fisheries by destroying
habitats that fisheries need to flourish.
Unfortunately, there are some in the U.S. fleet that
intentionally violate the law to an unfair advantage. We work
very hard to detect and prosecute them. We also actively seek
out and punish those who use non-U.S. flagged vessels to fish
illegally in U.S. waters. There are a plethora of vessels
outside the jurisdiction of the United States or the European
Union who engage in IUU activities.
Addressing these challenges requires international
cooperation. In September of last year, Commissioner Damanaki
and I signed a joint statement outlining our plans to combat
pirate fishing. A EU-U.S. working group is making good
progress toward coordinating and strengthening the requisite
monitoring and enforcement.
The EU has been a global leader in curbing IUU fishing. Joint
EU-U.S. efforts to combat IUU fishing are a down payment on
the larger shared commitment to sustainable fisheries. Both
the E.U. and the U.S., individually and collectively, have
promoted the adoption of measures in regional fisheries
bodies and other international fora to make it difficult for
IUU fishers to operate at sea, land their illegal product in
our ports and sell it in our markets. We will continue to be
vigilant in these efforts.
GLOBAL LEADERSHIP AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
The United States is pleased to be standing
shoulder-to-shoulder with the EU on efforts to combat IUU
fishing. We are also pleased to be working closely with the
EU to advance sustainable fisheries management practices
Over the past two years, the United States and EU
successfully collaborated on a number of proposals to promote
science-based, precautionary management in the regional
fisheries management organizations. Notable successes include
strict control measures for Atlantic bluefin tuna, progress
toward science-based quotas and protection for vulnerable
habitats in Northwest Atlantic fisheries, and prohibitions on
landing several vulnerable shark species in the Atlantic and
I wish to highlight sharks as species especially susceptible
to overexploitation. Many sharks grow slowly, are slow to
reproduce, and highly migratory. These characteristics have
resulted in far too many sharks being serious threatened.
Shark conservation and management is a global issue that
looks to multilateral engagement for creative solutions.
The EU's recent efforts to advance conservation and
sustainable management of sharks are commendable. I was
pleased to hear of Parliament's 2010 Resolution promoting
fins naturally attached and the Commission's subsequent
proposal for fins naturally attached as EU policy, one that
we fully support. For the United States, requiring fins
naturally attached greatly enhances enforcement efforts and
our ability to collect species-specific data.
In summary, the EU and US have worked together often and we
have worked together well on a wide variety of fisheries
issues. I look forward to our shared future progress.
For far too long, we have heard that we must choose between
the environment and the economy. But as you know well, this
is a false dichotomy. Chronic overfishing results in a
downward spiral of fewer and fewer fish and therefore fewer
and fewer fishing jobs and profits. A healthy economy of the
future depends upon a healthy environment. We can and must
The decision to manage for sustainable fisheries can be a
decision favoring long-term profitability for fishermen and
the fishing industry. The decision to support sustainable
fisheries looks to build long-term food security, jobs, and
economic stability for coastal communities - top priorities
for nations all over the world, especially in these
challenging times. The decision to combat pirate fishing
supports sustainability and profitability.
The proposed reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy are
visionary acts of courage. They will not be easy. If adopted,
these reforms will require some sacrifice, but I believe, as
has been the case in the United States, these sacrifices will
be repaid by much greater rewards. Seeing the rewards will
take time. So patience and a commitment for the long-term are
The U.S will continue to stand by our EU partners as we both
take necessary actions to ensure the long-term sustainability
of fisheries that our nations deserve, the future
profitability of fishing for fishermen and the fishing
industry, and a continuous supply of healthy seafood for
generations to come.
Food security, profitability, and sustainability are three
intertwined things we care about. One depends on the others.
We can link them successfully. We still have a long, long way
to go on sustainable management of fisheries on a global
scale. The EU Common Fisheries policy reforms have the
potential to be a giant leap forward toward that goal. ihttp://europa.eu/pol/fish/index_en.htm