An Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management Planning workshop in North Samar, Philippines

by Supin Wongbusarakum

Vessel moored by the banks of the river in North Samar, Philippines. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

“As a government employee, I will share all my knowledge and put in all my effort by doing my tasks the best I can to ensure success of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) plan. Being new to the government and the concept, I will study and do more research on how to make this more effective. As an individual, I will encourage my friends to protect nature in any simple way they can in their every day life.”

– A commitment statement by a local governmental unit officer at the EAFM Workshop, Calbayog, Philippines, January 30–February 2, 2017
Fresh fish at a harbor market

Fresh fish sold at the local harbor market. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

We arrived in the town of Calbayog in Visayas Province, Philippines the weekend before our EAFM workshop, supported by USAID, with partners from the USAID-funded ECOFISH project and officers from the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. We began setting up the room for the workshop activities and EAFM planning process. Collectively, we pooled our creativity to transform a long, narrow room into a welcoming venue where approximately 50 local governmental unit officials from 16 municipalities from the region could work together for the next four days. The objective for the workshop was to develop an EAFM plan for the fisheries management unit in the San Bernardino Strait and Ticao Pass—moving from theory to practice with an ecosystem approach to fisheries management and sustainable development. Because we needed to reserve wall space to display workshop output each day, we posted some of the posters on the ceiling. Surprisingly, everything looked great!

Abundance of Nipa palms in the wetland

Nipa palm trees line the coast of the wetlands. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

From the windows of the meeting room, we could see a big river with incredibly lush and green vegetation along both banks and mountains in the distance.  The light evening breeze matched the slow and gentle flow of the river. As the sun dropped below the horizon we found ourselves wrapped in a pleasant stillness, with just the sound of the water slipping by and evening insects as company. Most of us were in deep thought about what we would need to do to ensure that this workshop for EAFM planning in the Philippines would be a success and set a good precedent for more to follow.

Sunset in Calbayog

The sun sets behind a boat on the Calbayog coast. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

As night fell, a local ECOFISH staffer said we might see fireflies. Having been in many places where wetlands were paved over for development, I could not remember the last time I had seen fireflies. Then, in the midst of this reverie, I heard our ECOFISH colleagues shout, “Fireflies!” Here and there around us were tiny flashing lights. As the night got darker, some trees along the banks were filled with hundreds of fireflies. The effect was magical. Throughout the EAFM planning workshop, this image of firefly-lit trees kept surfacing as a reminder that there are still places where development has not covered over nature’s magic, and as an incentive for achieving a balance between people’s resource needs and the management and stewardship of ecosystems.

Boat by river bank

Fishing boat moored on the banks of the river. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Supin Wongbusarakum

In the workshop, we discussed this goal of balancing ecological health with human well-being through good governance. We outlined the principles of an EAFM that include coordination and cooperation for multiple objectives and precautionary approaches to address uncertainty. We went through a full EAFM planning process—the local governmental officials defined their fisheries management area, threats and issues, goals, objectives, management activities, monitoring, and financial plans. Similar to many of the areas where we work, the major threats and issues discussed in Calbayog were related to degraded fisheries resources, poverty, illegal fishing, and weak enforcement. These problems are interlinked and have to be addressed holistically, which is exactly what an ecosystem approach to fisheries management offers. We discussed different ways to sustain fisheries and develop alternative livelihoods that will help lessen pressures on marine resources. We also took into consideration different ways to engage other stakeholder groups that rely on these marine resources.

On the last day, I was asked to help close the workshop. I shared my thoughts about the fireflies of Calbayog, my impressions of the immensely valuable wetlands surrounding us, and how our work together would contribute to conserving coastal and the marine resources for future generations. The abundance of fireflies in Calbayog was not just a magic moment in my life, it was for me, a sign of how much nature around us remains intact. I asked all the participants to reflect on how each of us is committed to the goal of balancing nature and human well-being. One by one, participants came up and posted commitment statements as we thanked each other for contributing to a very productive workshop. We all agreed that it is important to continue working together so that future generations will be able to witness natural occurrences as magical as the fireflies of Calbayog.

With thanks to USAID, ECOFISH, and the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for supporting this workshop.


Considering catch share management for the Hawaii longline fishery

The Hawaii longline fleet is currently subject to catch quotas for bigeye tuna assigned by two regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs). One quota is assigned by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), for bigeye tuna caught in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), denoted as west of 150-degree W longitude. A second quota is assigned by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and applies to vessels greater than 24m in length for bigeye tuna caught in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO), denoted as east of 150-degree W longitude.

source: Pew Charitable Trusts

source: Pew Charitable Trusts

These quotas have been reached in recent years leading to periods of fishery closures (2009, 2010, and 2015) and localized socioeconomic impacts. Additionally, the quota in the WCPO is scheduled to decrease further in the future, creating uncertainty for fishery stakeholders.

PIFSC Socioeconomics Program researchers Kolter Kalberg and Thuy Tran – representing the University of Hawaii Joint Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) and Lynker Technologies, respectively, will be in the field between September 2015 and January 2016 to talk to fishermen and fishery stakeholders to better understand: (a) current fishery conditions; (b) concerns for the fishery; (c) management priorities; (d) outlook for the future; (e) knowledge of catch share programs; and (f) interest in considering catch share management.

A catch shares program is a strategy of managing a fishery under a quota which allocates a portion of the total allowable catch to an individual, boat, permit, cooperative, or other entity within that fishery. When participants have caught their portion of fish, they must stop fishing, or acquire rights from another participant.

These management programs have become increasingly popular around the globe, and can be designed and adapted to creatively meet the needs of fishery participants. Quota allocations can be fixed, dynamic, transferable, or a mix of these types. In other applications, quota allocations have been determined by historical catch, even distribution, vessel size, auction-based allocation, or some mix of these methods.

The goal of this research is to start the conversation as to whether alternative management strategies could better meet the needs and priorities of the Hawaii longline fleet and fishery stakeholders. It may be that a catch share management system could provide benefits to fishery stakeholders relative to the current management system — maybe not.

Things to consider about catch shares for the Hawaii longline fleet

  • Allocation – How would allocation occur?
  • Transferability – Should rights be able to be traded or sold?
  • New Entrants – How would new entrants and people exiting the fleet be treated?
  • Crew – How would crew members be considered in this program?
  • Authority – Who would manage the operations of the program?
  • Consolidation Concerns – Should there be limits on the concentration of shares?
  • Equity – Who decides if it is fair?


Click here to download an informational brochure supporting this project (versions in first languages: Vietnamese, Korean)

Click here to watch a short informational video supporting this project.

For more information about this research feel free to contact us:

For more information about other research from the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program visit our website or browse recent blog posts.

Giant strides forward to improve fisheries management in Indonesia

By Megan Moews-Asher

Let us begin with the “why”…

Biking1.Fish Market KendariAt the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the NOAA Fisheries’ Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) team has been working with colleagues in Indonesia since 2011 to help improve the country’s fisheries management. During this time, NOAA Fisheries and partners have been striving to find the best ways to communicate “why” Indonesia (and other countries) would want to move toward an EAFM—a more holistic way of managing fisheries that balances the needs (and impacts) of the people with that of the environment through good governance.

Each time we have visited Indonesia, we have seen the “why” firsthand. We have seen it in every man, woman and child. Whether rich or incredibly poor, no matter the religion or background, from local community to national government, we have always been greeted with genuine smiles and a sense of welcome. As an archipelagic nation with a rapidly growing population, Indonesia’s remarkable people rely on their fisheries in so many ways. Seeing those smiles and all of the poverty (yet hope), watching how hard they work to feed their families, and seeing just how much they rely on the fisheries for their food security and livelihoods—that is the “why.”

4.LivelihoodsOf course, there are many other reasons behind the “why,” such as—what about that delicious fish you ate the other night? Chances are, it may very well have come from Indonesia, which is the second largest fisheries nation in terms of production and a growing exporter of fisheries products to the United States. With demands for fisheries products increasing worldwide and our current abilities to meet them unsustainable, this does not only impact Indonesia, but other countries including the U.S. And to give yet another reason, let’s take a brief glimpse underwater. As part of the Coral Triangle, Indonesia has some of the highest biological diversity of marine species in the world. Its amazing diversity is almost magical—enough said. One could go on and on in terms of the “why.”

The problem is, the “why” is being severely impacted, from the individual people and their communities, to fish sizes and abundance, to the complex and diverse habitats that the fish rely on. This is where Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) has asked for help and where NOAA’s assistance comes in. The Indonesian government is working with NOAA to improve its fisheries management toward improved food security, livelihoods, sustainability, economic gain, and biodiversity conservation through an EAFM. When we first started coming to Indonesia, nationwide fisheries management was severely limited and we were discouraged to even speak the words “ecosystem approach to fisheries management.”



Under the leadership and vision of Pak Gellwyn Jusuf, Director General of Capture Fisheries, Pak Aryo Hanggono, Director of Fisheries Resources at the time (now Senior Advisor to the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Ibu Susi Pudjiastuti), his predecessor, Pak Toni Ruchimat, and their dedicated staff led by Ibu Erni Widjajanti, times are changing. With assistance from Indonesia’s EAFM National Working Group and partners, bolstered by NOAA’s technical assistance, Indonesia can now proudly say that they have developed 11 fisheries management plans (RPPs), spanning the entire nation and based largely on an EAFM. They further plan to increase stakeholder engagement and adapt the plans as they continue moving forward with implementation. But it doesn’t stop there! To support implementation and adaptation of the RPPs and future fisheries management needs nationwide, MMAF is now working toward development of Regional Fisheries Commissions, based on the U.S. Fisheries Management Council structure.

Pak Aryo Hanggono, Director of Fisheries Resources.

Pak Aryo Hanggono, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

From August 19–24, NOAA Fisheries’ Rusty Brainard, Wesley Patrick, and Megan Moews-Asher met with Pak Aryo Hanggono and staff, the EAFM National Working Group, the Indonesia Marine and Climate Support Project, USAID, and partners to discuss the development of Indonesia’s fisheries management governance structure. Among the examples provided during the workshop, the NOAA team presented the history, development, and lessons learned from the U.S. Fisheries Management Council system, its process and supporting structures. As a result of these discussions, the workshop participants, led by Pak Aryo and Ibu Erni, developed a structure similar to the U.S. Council system, but more applicable to Indonesia, to present to the Director General of Capture Fisheries and in anticipation of obtaining a future Ministerial Decree. The development of four Regional Fisheries Commissions across the nation will be yet another big and exciting step forward in improving fisheries management in Indonesia.

Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, EAFM National Working Group, and USAID work closely with NOAA Fisheries' Rusty Brainard, Wesley Patrick, and Megan Moews-Asher to draft Regional Fisheries Commission structure based on U.S. Council process.

Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, EAFM National Working Group, and USAID work closely with NOAA Fisheries’ Rusty Brainard, Wesley Patrick, and Megan Moews-Asher to draft Regional Fisheries Commission structure based on U.S. Council process.

A key element of the Commission structure will be the inclusion of important stakeholders, not only from national and provincial governments (including other directorates and ministries), but also representatives from small and large-scale fisheries, non-governmental organizations, and even traditional leaders. These stakeholders will collaborate on the development of fisheries management plans, decision-making, and co-management for each region. They also plan to include advisory groups and public consultation throughout the process—another important step forward.

We have since learned that Director General Pak Gellwyn “gave high appreciation on regionalization of Indonesia’s fisheries management areas and the design of the proposed commission structure.” Furthermore, led by the spirited and resilient Ibu Erni, a roadmap to begin this process has already been drafted. They have a long road ahead of them, but thanks to the hard work of many dedicated partners, Indonesia is making great strides toward sustainable fisheries management.

PIFSC researcher participates in Hanauma Bay Education Program Seminar Series

Justin Hospital, an economist with the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program presented recent research on the Hawaii bottomfish fishery at the “Sundays at the Bay” Education Outreach Seminar Series hosted by UH Sea Grant and the Hanauma Bay Education Program held at beautiful Hanauma Bay in Honolulu, HI on January 11, 2015. The series theme for January 2015 is “Science and Sustainable Seafood”.

Justin Hospital of the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program

Justin Hospital of the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program

The talk began with an introduction to Hawaii bottomfish species and described fishing techniques and traditions. A concise overview of catch trends and management changes in the fishery was followed by a discussion of the challenges associated with monitoring catch. The remainder of the talk provided results from recent economic and social science research efforts in the fishery, including work to assess (a) fisher perspectives, (b) consumer demand, and (c) fisher behavior.

A survey of the Hawaii bottomfish fleet in 2010 established important baselines on the economics of bottomfish fishing by collecting information on trip costs, annual expenditures, and investment in the fishery. Additionally, the research documented fisher perspectives on: (i) the economic, social and cultural importance of bottomfish; (ii) fisher classification; (iii) opinions towards managing agencies; (iv) satisfaction with both past and current management tools; and (v) attitudes towards fishery conditions, market conditions, and future management alternatives.

A consumer demand model was described which provides for a better understanding of the economic trade-offs of quota-based management and provides a measure of substitutability for fish species in the Hawaii bottomfish market. The research found that bottomfish are not very responsive to own-quantity changes meaning that decreases in catch quotas may result in relatively small increases in prices which complicates efforts to balance long term conservation with short term economic considerations. Also, all species in the market were found to be substitutes such that reductions in quota levels for one group of species could induce unintended spillover effects in the form of increased prices for unregulated species, which in turn could affect fishing effort and raise monitoring concerns.

What do fishermen do with their bottomfish catch?  [Hospital and Beavers, 2012]

What do fishermen do with their bottomfish catch? [Hospital and Beavers, 2012]

Lastly, preliminary work looking to describe fisher behavior was presented. Several modeling approaches were used to empirically estimate the influence of trip expenses, fisher classification, and cultural factors on market participation (percentage of fish sold) in the Hawaii bottomfish fishery. Due to the social and cultural importance associated with targeted species, most commercially-licensed fishermen retain portions of catch for personal home consumption and customary exchange within their communities. This behavior complicates fishery monitoring and raises concerns related to the scale of unreported catch in the fishery. Results highlight the complexities associated with predicting market participation in Hawaii small boat fisheries.

The take home points for the talk were:

  • The Hawaii bottomfish fishery is an interesting and unique artisanal fishery with significant social, cultural and economic importance.
  • Social sciences are key disciplines in contributing to sustainable fisheries management.
  • Local seafood consumers should be aware that Hawaii bottomfish populations are healthy and sustainably managed through science-based annual catch limits.

For results of recent bottomfish research by the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program click here.

To learn more about the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program check out our website.