THE FISHERMENS CONSERVATION ORGANIZATION
IFR CELEBRATES 10 YEARS OF CONSERVATION, RESEARCH, OUTREACH AND EDUCATION ON BEHALF OF FISH STOCKS AND FISHING COMMUNITIES
By Zeke Grader, Glen Spain, Natasha Benjamin, Nicole Brown
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR). Okay, so what is it? What has it done? Why should any of you care? To understand all of this, and also why this non-profit, non-governmental conservation organization (NGO) is so important to fishermen, lets go back to the 1980s with a little history.
‘Why cant we get grants to do fishery education and public outreach?’ ‘Why cant fishermen get contracts to do fishery research and restoration?’ ‘How come the environmental groups and others can get funds to address fish conservation issues and we cant?’ Those were just some of the questions raised at Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens Associations (PCFFA) Board meetings and meetings of other fishing groups during the 1980s. With so much to do, fishermen were frustrated that their own organizations barely had enough money from dues or assessments just to address issues with fishing regulations, never mind any of those bigger environmental problems affecting fish stocks and fishing communities.
The problem was that most fishing groups are organized as non-profit trade associations, which is fine when lobbying for legislation or addressing fish regulations, or even setting up services which many organizations provide their members, such as special rates on the purchase of everything from fishing gear to health insurance. However, most government contracts are limited to other specific types of non-profit organizations. Foundations do not usually enter into agreements with or provide grants to trade associations, even those that are tax exempt as non-profit Section 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(6)-types of organizations under the Internal Revenue Code. Instead, government contracts and foundation grants mostly are made to what are termed ‘charitable organizations’ that serve a broad public interest and are organized pursuant to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, but whose lobbying activities are greatly restricted (one very good reason most fishing groups do not choose to organize under this section).
Frustrated with not having the funds needed to carry out some of its own environmental efforts (such as those aimed at protecting and restoring fish stocks, or engaging in research, public outreach and education), and recognizing that even in the best of seasons the money just wouldnt be there from dues or assessments, the PCFFA Board in the 1980s spearheaded an effort to establish a separate 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization to raise additional funds to assist those fishing groups in vitally important restoration, research, outreach and education as well.
This was by no means the first such organization. The Western Fishboat Owners Association (WFOA), for instance, had already formed (with tuna canners) the ‘American Fishermens Research Foundation (AFRF)’ specifically to conduct research on the location and migration of albacore in the Pacific. Rather than having a single-issue focus however, the PCFFA Directors sought to form a non-profit that could address a number of different conservation and protection issues and to assist PCFFA and other commercial fishermens groups more generally.
The first effort by PCFFA at establishing a fishermens 501(c)(3) conservation organization was in 1985. In that year the ‘Coastal Fisheries Foundation’ (later renamed the ‘Coastal Resources Center’) was organized with a board consisting of a fisherman, a fish processor, a major fishing industry electronics manufacturer, a food writer, a fishery scientist and other assorted community leaders with an interest in fish and the marine environment. However, there were two immediate problems. The first was that there were not a lot of projects out there at the time that fishermen were interested in pursuing or that foundations were interested in funding. Second, the new non-profit soon began developing its own agenda and that agenda was not fishermen-needs driven.
Then PCFFA President Nat Binghams work in fishery restoration had by then become fairly well known throughout California and even nationally. He had put together the successful winter-run chinook captive broodstock program and was well known in the Central Valley, Klamath Basin and coastal watersheds for working with timber companies, water districts and farmers trying to restore salmon habitat. By 1992, after nine years as President of PCFFA, he decided to step down as well as quit fishing. He sold his boat and began spending full-time working on habitat issues this time on staff for PCFFA. Bingham had even been approached by a major foundation that was interested in helping fund his habitat restoration work. There was only one problem: the non-profit the fishermen had originally started had by then forgotten who had brought it to the dance, had drifted into other areas and turned the money down.
Rather than seek out yet another unrelated non-profit to funnel the money through, PCFFA created a new organization, this time with a board made up entirely of fishermen. Papers were filed in late 1992 by then PCFFA General Legal Counsel Glen Spain, and in 1993 the first Board meeting was held and the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR) became official. In its early years, IFR principally focused on salmon issues providing a mechanism for funding Nat Binghams work and also funding the work of a second office in Eugene, Oregon to deal with Northwest and Northern California/Klamath salmon restoration issues. That IFR Northwest Regional office was and is still headed up by PCFFAs Glen Spain. In the meantime, the plug was pulled on the Coastal Resources Center, the failed first non-profit.
During its first five years, the Salmon Program was the lifeblood of IFR. Nat Bingham was on the road continually (when he wasnt in Washington DC trying to get funds for restoration), seeing through the broodstock and recovery efforts for the winter-run chinook, which had been the first Pacific salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act. He was also immersed in the San Francisco Bay and Delta issues critical to Central Valley salmon production and heavily involved as well in the provincial bodies established to advise on the Presidents Northwest Forest Plan, where he headed up a subcommittee on coho restoration. Nat Bingham had by that time also been appointed to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, where he was instrumental in organizing the PFMCs ‘Habitat Committee.’
In the Northwest, Glen Spain brought IFR into prominence on Columbia River Basin salmon restoration issues, working to build politically effective coalitions between fishermen and conservation groups through the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, and supporting the efforts to restore Northwest salmon fisheries by Salmon For All and Washington Trollers Association, both long-time PCFFA member organizations, but also working in Puget Sound with the gillnetters there to help resolve some seabird bycatch problems that were plaguing the fleet.
In addition to Columbia salmon issues, IFRs Northwest Office has long been deeply involved in the process of coastal coho recovery planning. IFRs Glen Spain also played a critical role in convincing environmental groups to not support two Washington anti-commercial fishing initiatives, which helped immensely to defeat those two ballot measures. In recent years, Spain has also taken on Klamath River water issues as part of The Klamath Basin Coalition, of which both IFR and PCFFA are founding members. He is also IFRs Litigation Director and has been instrumental, working with Earthjustice and other public interest law firms, in IFRs successful litigation to gain better fish passage, watershed protection and flows for salmon in the Northwest and Northern California, to remove several fish-killing dams all measures critical to getting better salmon seasons for fishermen all along the coast.
Most of Binghams work and all of Spains were funded through grants and contracts that could only go through a 501(c)(3) non-profit which was IFR. If fishermen along the Pacific Coast want to thank someone for their good seasons, they can thank God for the wet winters and good oceanic conditions, thank Earthjustice for suing the bastards to protect the fish and get better river flows, and thank IFR for providing fishermen the wherewithal to fight for their fish and their communities.
The potential of IFR to be the vehicle for fishermen to enact change has not been lost on PCFFA Board members or others! IFR got funding to turn famed author Marc Reisner (Cadillac Desert, Game Wars) loose in Sierra watersheds, working with Bingham on dam removal projects such as those in Butte and Battle Creeks. Through IFR, fishery scientist Bill Kier was brought on with his team to develop watershed resource information systems (called KRIS), designed to help fishermen and the public have available at their fingertips either through CDs or over the web comprehensive information on important salmon watersheds to better design restoration programs as well as comment on activities occurring in those watersheds. This work was funded both through foundation grants and contracts with the California Department of Forestry and the Sonoma County Water Agency awarded to IFR.
The tragic death of Nat Bingham in 1998 was a blow to the fleet, and it forced IFR to begin moving away from work designed around individuals toward carrying out projects on a broader programmatic basis. Since 1998, based on the input from the PCFFA Board, individual fishermen, and even some in the non-fishing sector, such as restaurants, IFR has expanded its programs to cover a variety of fisheries and fishery needs. The range of programs has now greatly expanded to encompass conservation projects and policy debates at the regional, national and international levels.
IFRs Board of Trustees are exclusively fishermen. The first scientific advisor to the Board has recently been named, Paul Siri (former Deputy Director of the University of Californias Bodega Marine Laboratory) and other advisors from the business, scientific, consumer and conservation sectors are being sought out. Having a board exclusively of fishermen goes against the tenets of most non-profit organizational advice, which is to seek board diversity so that a larger network can be extended into different areas of the community to strengthen community and financial support. Such boards, however (as PCFFA found out with its first 501(c)(3) attempt) can mean board members and staff who are not experts in fishing nor responsive to fishermens real needs. IFR has been PCFFAs ‘research, education and outreach’ arm, but it has also worked with and been responsive to non-PCFFA member fishing groups and individuals as well.
IFRs current programs include the following:
California Sustainable Fisheries Project. This 3-year project will finish in December 2003, and was designed to enable participation by fishing men and women in the implementation of Californias newly passed Marine Life Management Act and Marine Life Protection Act (marine reserves) programs, as well as to involve more small boat fishermen in the Pacific Fishery Management Councils groundfish process as it affected nearshore fisheries. The first two years of the project funded six organizers along the coast to assist fishermen in different ports along the California coast with participating in developing the states newly established management programs. During the third year, the project was pared down to one statewide coordinator and funds were utilized to assist fishermen in getting to key state and federal meetings. A portion of the funds were also used to begin putting together a program to promote important collaborative research projects between fishermen and scientists. This whole project was funded by a generous grant from the David & Lucille Packard Foundation.
Collaborative Research. This project is an outgrowth of the Sustainable Fisheries Project above. There are, unfortunately, many gaps in the science and data collection systems needed to sustainably manage many fisheries. IFR has been working to promote fishery research projects, including stock assessments, to help fill those gaps, utilizing fishermen and their vessels working together with fishery scientists. To this end, IFR has been working closely with the Pacific Marine Conservation Council (PMCC) to foster a west coast collaborative fisheries research program similar to that currently taking place in New England. It has also assisted fishermen in taking part in existing collaborative research programs that are currently funded through the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. For instance, IFR is currently administering a project that will be utilizing fishermen and their boats in a salmon tagging program. It is also working with PCFFA to push for permanent federal funding for west coast fishery research, with a large amount of that money to be directed to collaborations between fishermen and scientists.
International Trade. This project is aimed at addressing some critical issues that affect fishermen in the area of trade agreements. This effort provides research, education and advocacy and is focused on three main issues.
The first issue area has to do with ‘dumping’ of foreign fish on the U.S. market at below production costs, an illegal and unfair (but all too common) trade practice that undercuts the economic livelihoods of hardworking U.S. fishermen. Past examples of this included Norways dumping of farmed salmon on the U.S. market and current allegations of Chilean farmed salmon producers doing the same thing.
The second issue area has to do with unfair competition from foreign fishermen or foreign fish producers as a result of their own nations fishing operations not meeting the same conservation standards required of U.S. fishermen, thus allowing those fishermen, processors or fish farmers to unfairly undercut U.S. fishermen in the marketplace while depleting whole fisheries.
The third issue area has to do with international trade agreements, such as the round of Fair Trade Agreements (FTAs) being negotiated by the U.S. (including that signed with Chile on June 6th), and with proposed new World Trade Organization (WTO) rules that would undercut sound conservation measures or measures designed to protect fishermen or consumers. Here the concern is that a nations conservation statutes or rules not be overturned by the WTO under the guise of their being reclassified as ‘trade impediments.’ There is concern too that WTO rules being proposed could be used to overturn necessary U.S. rules restricting who may participate in our own nations fisheries, who may own fishing vessels or even who may own quota shares in an IFQ fishery.
Trade expert Victor Menotti is heading up this project (see the April 2002 FN article ‘Not Fish Friendly: The WTOs New Doha Agenda for Fisheries,’ www.pcffa.org/fn-apr02.htm) within IFRs overall Sustainable Fisheries Program.
GOOD FISH ‘SEASONAL, HEALTHFUL, SUSTAINABLE’
This program is centered around consumer outreach and education. IFR has stayed focused on the three fundamentals of commercial fishing: 1) healthy fish stocks; 2) access to the fish; and 3) markets for the fish. So while Sustainable Fisheries, Salmon and San Francisco Bay Restoration programs (see below) have been aimed at increasing the abundance of fish, the Good Fish program is aimed at the markets for fish, i.e., consumer education and awareness.
This program began out of two series of discussions. The first was with the Sierra Club, which developed a salmon watershed protection program in the late 1990s. The Club asked both PCFFA and IFR what it should tell its members, who were concerned with the plight of many depressed native salmon stocks, about just what fish they should eat. Should they eat farmed salmon? Should they avoid salmon altogether? What should people concerned with declining salmon stocks actually do? A piece was then prepared for the Clubs salmon newsletter explaining that the salmon in the markets were those taken from healthy runs, and also that there were already extensive restrictions in place to protect weak and ESA-listed salmon runs from overfishing.
In fact, as we told them, purchasing wild salmon, besides being good for consumers, actually helps to protect weaker salmon stocks. In many instances a portion of the proceeds from the salmon sale go directly back into salmon protection (Californias Commercial Salmon Stamp program, for example). We also made people aware of the fact that buying wild salmon helped fishermen continue to make a strong economic case for the protection and restoration of damaged watersheds and salmon habitat, and that salmon farming (at least as it is now conducted) is actually very bad for the environment. That outreach, to a portion of the public that might have otherwise been hostile to fishing purely through ignorance, indicated to IFR the strong need for better consumer education about fish and fishing generally.
Secondly, in discussions with restaurant owners regarding seafood consumer education, we asked them what were the most common questions they got from their customers. They told us that the most frequently asked question was about whether the fish was fresh or in season. The second most frequently asked question was about the health aspects of the fish: ‘Was it high in cholesterol? Did it have mercury in it? Was it taken from polluted waters? What about the omega 3s?’ The final question asked was whether it was overfished or endangered: ‘Did the fishing hurt turtles or dolphins? Was the fishery sustainable?’
IFR took these questions and put together its ‘Good Fish Program,’ which is aimed at these primary consumer concerns: seasonality; health benefits/risks; and the sustainability of the fishery. To this end, this program has been working on a number of fronts. We have worked to better advise those preparing sustainable seafood lists for consumers, making sure the information they are based on is accurate and science-based. We are promoting full and accurate labeling of seafood for consumers. We are preparing educational materials for consumers regarding problems associated with some farmed fish and with genetically-engineered (or ‘transgenic’) fish that may soon be used in aquaculture operations. Finally, we have been working with consumer groups, chefs and seafood restaurants advising them on the sustainability issues associated with various fish. Since so many of our west coast fish are produced sustainably — salmon, albacore, Dungeness and rock crab, Pacific and California halibut, sablefish, California lobster and others — more awareness at the restaurant and consumer level should translate into better markets for these fish. Natasha Benjamin is heading up the Good Fish program.
SALMON PROTECTION AND RESTORATION
The Salmon Restoration Program, IFRs oldest, is currently split between the Pacific Northwest and California. The Pacific Northwest portion of this Program, headed by Glen Spain, includes salmon restoration work on the Columbia, the Klamath, in Northwest coastal watersheds and in the Puget Sound. Glen Spain is the PCFFA/IFR commercial fishing representative to the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, and serves on numerous other salmon restoration-related panels and agency working groups in the Pacific Northwest and Klamath Basin. He is also working on a number of dam decommissioning and FERC relicensing issues in the Northwest and Northern California (see below).
In California, since the death of Nat Bingham, most of the salmon work in that state has been headed up by Zeke Grader. That effort includes recovery efforts in coastal watersheds and for coho, including a new coho captive broodstock program. On the California State coho recovery program, IFRs Vivian Bolin is the alternate to Humboldt County Supervisor Jimmy Smith (a former commercial fisherman and PCFFA member) representing commercial fishing. Grader is also the commercial fishing representative to the Environmental Water Caucus, which is addressing Central Valley and Bay/Delta issues surrounding salmon, and has been a member of the negotiating team working to restore flows to the San Joaquin River.
Klamath Resource Information System. The KRIS Program (KRIS stands for ‘Klamath Resource Information System’ because it first began in the Klamath Basin) is a user-friendly, GIS-plus database and information system that provides comprehensive watershed information on many salmon-bearing watersheds. The system, often containing key information (published and unpublished) that might otherwise only be available in obscure agency or university libraries, has become an essential planning tool for fishing groups and other members of the public (particularly in rural areas where access to information may be limited), to be able to make intelligent decisions regarding management of important salmon watersheds.
The KRIS Program has nearly completed its inventory of major Northern California coastal watersheds and is now beginning to inventory San Francisco Bay watersheds, looking to expand south to at least San Luis Obispo County (Morro Bay, CA), and it is beginning to be used in other states as well. The next logical step will be to take this highly acclaimed system into coastal ocean waters. This portion of the Salmon Program is headed by fishery scientist and IFR Associate, Bill Kier and his KRIS team. Go to the KRIS website at: www.krisweb.com.
Dam Removal. This phase of the Salmon Program was started by Nat Bingham when he begin discussions for the removal of a series of old hydroelectric dams on Battle Creek, a key salmon producing tributary on the Upper Sacramento River in California. Author Marc Reisner also became involved, helped to get the Butte Creek dams removed and had begun working on Battle Creek before his death in 2000. The California program has since been taken over by Guy Phillips, working with engineer Dennis Gathard (who played an important role in the removal of the Edwards Dam in Maine). They are in the process of completing two studies for IFR under contract with the California Coastal Conservancy for removal of a number of dams along the Central California coast.
Two major fish-killing dams in the Northwest are now slated for removal partly through the efforts of IFRs Northwest Regional Office and NW Regional Director Glen Spain. One, the Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River, is an 87-year-old and now obsolete dam that has very poor fish passage that has destroyed a major salmon fishery worth about $5 million/year, according to studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As a result of a settlement agreement in a lawsuit over that dam in which IFR and PCFFA were co-plaintiffs, that dam is slated for removal and replacement by modern (and screened) pumps that will provide full river fish passage. Another unfinished dam on Oregons Rogue River, the Elk Creek Dam, is also likely to be ‘notched’ soon as a result of a Salmon Program lawsuit, although removal is currently being blocked in Congress. Additionally, the Salmon Program dam removal efforts of the Northwest Office include working on various dam decommissioning and relicensing projects in the Klamath Basin and the Columbia-Snake River Basin, and on the now approved decommissioning of two major fish-killing Elwha River dams in the Puget Sound.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY RESTORATION PARTNERSHIP
San Francisco Bay is the most biologically and economically important estuary on the Pacific Coast of North and South America. It is the migratory route of the second large chinook salmon run in the lower 48 states and provides important rearing habitat for those fish headed from their natal Sierra Nevada mountain streams to the sea. It is home to the largest herring roe fishery south of British Columbia — the United States only remaining urban commercial fishery. It was once one of the largest nursery areas for Dungeness crab along the coast, and it once supported major commercial oyster and shrimp fisheries.
The San Francisco Bay, however, is in a lot of trouble. In many years as much as 50 percent of its total freshwater inflow, critical for estuarine function, is diverted far inland, mostly for commercial agriculture. There is still considerable dredging spoils disposal in the Bay, and serious non-point source pollution problems from both urban and agricultural runoff impair water quality. Frustrated with the lack of concern or attention by most agencies, a few years ago IFR initiated its ‘Herring & Oysters & Crab’ restoration effort, which has since evolved into its ‘San Francisco Bay Restoration Partnership’ with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administrations (NOAA) Restoration Center. This new program is in its first year and is now currently reviewing proposals for its IFR/NOAA ‘Restore San Francisco Bay’ partnership funding grants. This program is headed up by IFRs Nicole Brown.
OTHER IFR FUNCTIONS
Two other functions IFR is currently supporting, but not under its program headings, are:
Fisheries Communications and Education. Through IFRs ‘Fishlink’ news network, IFR (jointly with PCFFA) also produces a no-cost weekly Internet newsletter of fishery news and information called Sublegals. This free electronic newsletter is intended to provide timely fisheries information in a compact Internet format directly to your email box once a week. It is not intended to replace print media, including such excellent trade publications as Fishermens News, which can provide much more in-depth coverage, but rather to compliment these print media and to serve both as a fisheries and salmon restoration research and educational information tool. To sign up for Fishlink Sublegals, see:
If you have any trouble subscribing this way, contact us at: email@example.com and we will manually subscribe you.
AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Internship. Finally, IFR annually hosts and trains two second-year members of the AmeriCorps Watersheds Stewards Project each year where they learn about and work on a variety of salmon restoration and fisheries policy issues. Many of these interns, both while at IFR and afterwards, have made real contributions in these fields.
WHATS IN IT FOR YOU? LOTS!
Over its past 10 years, the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR) has become a real force for the coastwide protection, restoration and sustainable harvest of salmon fisheries and other marine natural resources you depend on for your livelihood. IFR is also working hard to protect your markets and prevent their erosion by unfair international and corporate-dominated trade policies. IFR is aggressively working to get water back into salmon-bearing rivers, and fish-killing dams down or modified. IFR is working to bring research money to bear on real problems that real fishermen have to face daily.
In other words, IFR (together with its parent organization PCFFA) is representing YOUR interests and working for the health of YOUR fisheries and the ultimate economic survival of YOUR coastal communities. This is because IFR is unique: It is an aggressive fisheries conservation organization founded by and run by commercial fishermen. It is your tool for sound and sustainable fisheries conservation, research, outreach and education — and is worthy of your support.
For more information about the Institute for Fisheries Resources or to join as a supporting member, go to IFRs Internet Home Page at: www.ifrfish.org.
William F. ‘Zeke’ Grader, Jr. is the Executive Director of both the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens Associations (PCFFA) and the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR); Glen Spain is the Northwest Regional Director for both PCFFA and IFR; Natasha Benjamin is IFRs Southwest Regional Director and heads up its Good Fish Program; Nicole Brown is IFRs Development Officer and also heads up IFRs San Francisco Bay Restoration Program. The Institute for Fisheries Resources can be reached at Southwest Regional Office: PO Box 29196, San Francisco, CA 94129-0196 USA, (415)561-3474; Northwest Regional Office: PO Box 11170, Eugene, OR 97440-3370, (541)689-2000. IFRs email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org and its web site is at: www.ifrfish.org.