Interview of the Week, Eric Schwaab, SVP, Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund

We have excerpted portions of his interview below.  Thank you, Eric, for speaking with ODP!

ODP:  There have been many studies documenting the impact that climate change is having on fish stocks.  Is EDF seeing this actually play out in its fisheries work here in the U.S. and worldwide?

ES: Yes. Ten years ago we began to see this in the Northeast Atlantic with the mackerel wars as mackerel began to shift into new waters…and it really upset a sustainable fisheries management regime predominantly centered in Great Britain — ten years ago. More recently and closer to home, we have seen the recruitment failure of Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska, which caused the unprecedented move of the closure of that fishery….

ODP: In the U.S. we regulate fisheries by region.  If the fish are shifting out of the regions where they are typically managed, how do we deal with that?  

ES: …The need to manage where the fish are going to be or will be…that’s the next big challenge …we have allocations based on historic distribution patterns and they really are not set up to easily adjust to these shifts… and we don’t want to leave out a focus on justice and equity and ensuring that communities across the U.S. and around the world are not unfairly disadvantaged because of loss of productivity or distribution off their shores….

ODP: The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the fishing sector quite hard, with many fishers not able to fish and others struggling to sell their catches. What is happening?

ES: …It is interesting to draw the comparison between the impacts of short term disruptions associated with COVID and the longer-term disruptions that we are seeing and will see more of in relation to climate — some of the same types of resiliencies will have to be applied.

ODP: New electronic monitoring technology is making it possible for fisheries to be much better managed.  Do you think fishermen will begin to accept and embrace this new technology now? 

ES:  Yes…I think the experiences of COVID really have put a lot more fisherman in the position of appreciating the value of technology as an alternative to at-sea monitors…These are tools that can help fishermen in their business operations as well.

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