The goal of our Gulf Wild Conservation Covenants is to ensure ongoing conservation and improvements in Gulf fisheries. In addition, Gulf Wild fishermen believe even more can be done in the reef fish fishery to improve accountability and data collection, reduce discards, and rebuild fisheries in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Ultimately, no other seafood traceability program is as dynamic, robust or responsible.
OUR COMMITMENT TO CONSERVATION
As a “by the fishermen, for the fishermen” organization, Gulf Wild is committed to providing industry based, innovative and leadership-oriented direction for stewardship in the Gulf of Mexico. With their guidance and oversight, our Board of Directors ensures that Gulf Wild stays on course and true to its mission of seafood sustainability and fishery conservation as well as all our conservation actions. These include improvements to our Conservation Covenants, adding new species and creating more robust traceability standards.
The Board, along with our fishermen, are proud to be 100% accountable for their adherence to our Conservation Covenants approach - a two-tiered program developed exclusively to ensure ongoing improvement in the Gulf of Mexico’s fisheries. The first tier - Base Accountability - represents the bare minimum required to ensure a healthy and productive future for the Gulf, and puts a premium on compliance with existing fisheries regulations. The second - Above and Beyond Accountability - is meant to raise the bar for sustainable fishery practices; like the rising tide that helps to raise all boats.
Base accountability maintains compliance with all current national and international regulations, including:
- The Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Management Plan and amendments
- Adherance to science-based quotas
- Gear restrictions and area closures to reduce sea turtle interactions
- Compliance with federal observer program
- Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) requirements, including active IFQ accounts to catch, hold, land, sell and/or transport fish
- Monitoring/enforcement, including fishing call-in/call-out to federal authorities, 24/7 vessel monitoring and random checks by enforcement officers
ABOVE AND BEYOND ACCOUNTABILITY
The Shareholders’ Alliance commissioned a revealing pre-assessment of groupers, tilefish and red snapper against the Marine Stewardship Council’s standards. Not satisfied with the results, the Shareholders’ Alliance developed a regulatory solution plan for Fishery Improvement Projects (FIP) to address the identified issues with the help of participating Gulf Wild vessels and fishermen. Regulations include:
- Prohibition on “highgrading”(intentionally discarded low-value fish for higher-value fish)
- Prohibition on discarding any target fish (except where required by regulations, such as minimum size limits)
- Implementation of the Gulf Wild voluntary electronic video monitoring program (where available) with full on-board video monitoring, assuring compliance with conservation covenants and fishing regulations. Note: As the first in the Gulf to use these advanced video monitoring systems, our goal is to demonstrate that the system can and should be implemented fleet-wide.
- Implementation of Bird Excluder Devices designed for minimizing shorebird loss in gear entanglements.
- Adherence to a maximized retention fishery.
- Landing interviews with Gulf Wild staff for QA/QC standards.
- Tagging of every species caught and retained to be entered into the TransparenSea System
- Participation in Shareholders’ Alliance and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) research projects to establish better data collection for reef fish stock assessments.
Additionally, all Gulf Wild fishermen, vessels, owners and fish houses participate in periodic voluntary audits to verify adherence to our Conservation Covenants, verification requirements, and food safety testing protocols. As our last step in the process, our supply chain partners who wish to participate also agree to an annual review and periodic audits to ensure all standards and practices are met.
BYCATCH REDUCTION STUDY
Gulf Wild is testing fishing gear modifications to help reduce bycatch and ensure fishery sustainability in the Gulf of Mexico. All too often, intended harvests of Gulf Red Grouper, American Red Snapper and Tilefish include unwanted bycatch of larger species including Gag Grouper, brood stock fish and a variety of sharks, forcing unwanted and unintended reductions in population.
The goal of this study is to test gear modifications and deterrent devices that will ensure capture of only the smaller, target fish - allowing sharks and larger reef fish brood stock to survive, breed and increase the fishery populations. If proven effective, the modification will provide a model that can be implemented, not only throughout the entire Gulf of Mexico, but nationwide.
ELECTRONIC LOGBOOKS AND MONITORING
Gulf Wild and the Shareholders' Alliance are supporting the testing and implementation of advanced electronic fishing vessel logbooks that will replace antiquated paper-and-pencil catch reporting and effectively to promote cooperative fisheries research between commercial fishermen and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). With positive outcomes, this will become an effective and efficient method for capturing real-time fishing data, integrating it with NMFS tools and reducing the time and inherent discrepancies associated with manual logbooks and reporting.
While this program is experimental in nature, its goal is to generate an exportable model that can be utilized by fishermen throughout the entire Gulf of Mexico.