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Community-Based Fisheries Management

CBFM Workshop
Click for a full size CBFM Workshop portrait (Photo by Eric Enno Tamm, Ecotrust Canada.)

Ecotrust is working with fishing communities on the following projects to harness markets and influence public policies in support of community and ecosystem resilience.

Sustainable Fisheries Trust Policy and Program Innovation Project

Mounting pressure on marine fisheries, in Alaska and worldwide, calls for concerted action by those closest to and most dependent on these resources, the coastal communities and local fishermen that have for generations played a vital stewardship role. The goal of this project is to act on current market- and policy-driven opportunities to establish a community-based, self-supporting model for achieving healthy fisheries and fishing economies.

1. Market-based objective

With leadership support from the Oak Foundation, a network based on the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT) is being established to strengthen the role of fishing communities through direct investment in their sustainably harvested products and their commitment to the resource. The ASFT has developed innovative programming to finance, organize, and market the sustainable activities and products of fishermen committed to conservation. In the process, the integrated Trust strategy is attracting diverse interest and increasing awareness of its inherent benefits, from both public and private sectors. This success has set the stage for an opportunity to extend ASFT’s reach in an expanding network of new Trusts in order to achieve new levels of fisheries protection and community and consumer engagement. To this end, Ecotrust is working with other organizations to leverage the ASFT model and lessons learned to catalyze creation of a core of community-based fishing organizations (potential Trusts) that multiply the benefits of the Trust strategy beyond Alaska.

Participant Organizations:

2. Policy objective

Ecotrust is working to identify and activate public policy options for Community/Regional Fishing Associations in Alaska that strengthen and formalize the Trust approach at the level of communities. The national call for catch share programs offers such an opportunity. Fisheries catch share, or limited access privilege (LAP), programs are a means of managing fisheries by allocating a specific portion of the total allowable catch of a fish stock to individuals, cooperatives, communities or other entities. Catch share programs are meant to address the tragedy of the commons, over-capitalization in fishing fleets, poor marketing opportunities, and fishing safety. However, as documented in Alaska1 , these programs can cause migration of quota away from communities, substantial increases in the cost of entry (high quota share prices), and high lease rates and debt loads that have the effect of disenfranchising traditional fishing communities and their historic stewardship role.

Community and Regional Fishing Associations (CFAs and RFAs), as provided through the 2007 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, (MSA, section 303A) present opportunities for reasserting the role of fishing communities in the pursuit of economic, social and environmental success through the implementation of catch share programs that foster resource and community sustainability. CFAs/RFAs can effectively act as Trusts, holding limited access privileges (catch shares) to anchor access to fish in a community, and could lease catch quota or other access privileges to individual fishermen.

The recently issued National Catch Share Policy from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) encourages fisheries management councils to “…develop policies to promote the sustained participation of fishing communities and take advantage of the special community provisions in the MSA… to help assure sustainable fishing communities, including the continuation of working fishery waterfronts, fishery infrastructure, diverse fishing fleets, and recreational access.2 CFA/RFAs present an opportunity for strengthening and expanding the application of the Trust model and would promote the sustained participation of fishing communities into the future.

Community Dimensions of Fisheries Catch Share Programs

Coastal fishing communities form a vital element of our national heritage. Although communities are included in the definition of catch shares, there has been a notable lack of implementation of existing provisions for communities in the nation's fisheries law.

In 2010, Ecotrust convened the first national, bi-partisan panel to address the important issue of how communities can participate and benefit under a catch share model of fisheries management. The Panel released its report with a set of recommendations in March 2011. To learn more about the Panel and read its report, click here (564k pdf).

1 Report on Holdings of Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) by Residents of Selected Gulf of Alaska Fishing Communities 1995–2004. March 2005, Alaska Region, NOAA Fisheries Service (NMFS) Restricted Access Management Program, Juneau, AK.

2 NOAA Catch Share Policy, November 2010, p. 14. PDF

Our Work

Ecotrust Fisheries

Catch Shares

North Pacific Fisheries Trust


Learn More

Sitka Workshop, AK 2005 (24k pdf)

Sitka Declaration, 2005 (64k pdf)

Market Design for Limited Access Privileges Programs in U.S. Fisheries Proceedings of a workshop organized by Ecotrust (Oct 3–4, 2007) (2.3mb pdf)

Obstacles & Opportunities for Community-Based Fisheries Management in the United States A report by Michael L. Weber and Suzanne Iudicello (1.35mb pdf)

CBFM in the Bay of Fundy: Sustaining Communities Through Resistance and Hope (70kb pdf)

General resources from the Bay of Fundy management: 1) link via stfx.ca, 2) link via gulfofmaine.org

Bibliographic resources on cooperative management: link via oregonstate.edu

Community management example from Cape Cod, Massachusetts: link via ccchfa.org

Creating legal space for community management: link via fao.org


Megan Mackey
Fisheries Policy Associate
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