Portland's working waterfront attracted a national gathering of fishermen, seafood related businesses, regulators and scientists who came together to explore creative approaches to fisheries management systems. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) facilitated the "Innovative Strategies for Success Under Catch Shares" conference, which attracted more than 100 national leaders in fisheries innovation to The Portland Company's industrial warehouse setting on October 18-19. It featured panelists from the seafood marketplace as well as fisheries scientists, demonstrations of fishing gear innovations, and a keynote address by Eric Schwaab, assistant administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service.
Implemented in May 2010, the new catch share-based "sector" system introduced in the New England groundfish industry has signaled a major transition for fishermen across the region. Fishermen electing to join these cooperatives are apportioned an allocation of stocks rather than being limited to a set number of days-at-sea. As catch share systems are implemented in fisheries across the globe, New England's sector system has emerged as a model for innovative approaches. The conference gave participants an opportunity to explore creative strategies for operating under catch share systems while encouraging discussion through the creation of an idea exchange and generation platform.
"GMRI continually looks for ways to help create community networks as a way to transfer knowledge, a way to catalyze solutions to the complex problems facing our fishing industry," said Don Perkins, president, GMRI. "We understand that meaningful change is not an easy process, and as a neutral organization we find ourselves uniquely poised to provide this kind of support to diverse groups of marine stakeholders."
Participants explored New England's sector model to understand how a catch share-based fishery both drives and necessitates innovation on the water, in communities, in the marketplace and by regulators. They came away with take-home actions, ideas, partnerships and resources to incorporate into existing efforts, enhance their own programs and launch new initiatives.
"This was a truly inspiring conference," said one participant. "I was gratified to learn that so many people and organizations are making substantial progress in keeping community centered fisheries viable in a catch share economy."