Press

Press Release: March 30, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 30, 2009
Contact: Jennifer Witherspoon, EDF California Communications Director 415-378-1985

EDF LAUNCHES NATION’S FIRST SUSTAINABLE FISHING LOAN PROGRAM

California Fisheries Fund Grants First Loans for Eco-friendly Fishing Businesses in California

(March 30, 2009 - Mountain View, CA): At 5:30 p.m. PST Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) will hold a special event at Google's Mountain View headquarters to announce the launch of the California Fisheries Fund (CFF), a $5 million, first-of-its-kind revolving loan program to rebuild California’s fishing communities and to develop eco-friendly fishing. CFF also will announce its first three loans, which collectively support a vertically integrated fish-to-consumer supply chain that extends from fishermen to dockside unloader and buyer to seafood distributor. It is an unprecedented public-private investment in sustainable seafood distribution. Google purchases eco-friendly seafood, including from one of the first CFF borrowers, Central Coast Seafood.

“Without the California Fisheries Fund, these fishing businesses probably wouldn’t get loans, and without loans, the entire seafood supply chain, starting with the fishermen, can’t make the necessary investments to make fishing more sustainable,” said Michael DeLapa, manager of the CFF. “We expect these loans to be paid back because we’re confident about the growing market for environmentally-friendly fish and the new value created by management innovations.

Demand for seafood is growing as consumers respond to evidence of its health benefits and concern grows for ocean life and habitat and for the people whose livelihoods depend upon the sea. Large retail chains and food service providers are providing sustainable seafood when possible including: Bon Appétit Management Company, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and Darden Restaurants, the parent of Red Lobster, and the Compass Group.

Since much of California’s fishing industry has, for decades, been unprofitable or marginally profitable, banks have been mostly unwilling to extend loans to fishermen. The CFF provides needed capital to fishermen and businesses that face additional barriers because the experimental methods they use to catch fish and protect the environment are considered risky by lenders.

“We really appreciate the loan from the California Fisheries Fund, especially in the middle of the current economic realities and credit crunch,” said Brett Cunningham, owner of Morro Bay Fish Company, a dockside fish buyer located in Morro Bay, CA.

The CFF will grant Morro Bay Fish Company a $25,000 working capital line of credit, as well as a 5-year, $100,000 loan to remodel its freezer, purchase a delivery truck and build a hoist on the dock. As the primary fish buyer on the dock in Morro Bay, Morro Bay Fish Company will help to deliver and market sustainable fish from local fishermen.

“Our business model depends on maintaining a reliable supply of fresh fish caught in ways that maintain healthy fish populations,” said Giovanni Comin, owner of Central Coast Seafood. “Our California Fisheries Fund loan will make it a lot easier to deliver sustainable seafood to markets worldwide.”

Central Coast Seafood, a leading sustainable fish buyer from Atascadero in San Luis Obispo County, California, will use a $150,000 line of credit from the CFF to invest in black cod inventory, as well as marketing to keep up with the increased supply from local fishing. The fishing quotas for black cod are nearly quadrupling in 2009—rising to 3 million pounds in the fishing regions surrounding Morro Bay—due to the abundance and health of the stock.

CFF’s first loans are in Morro Bay because fisheries managers and fishermen made significant improvements in management and commitments to environmentally friendly business and fishing. In 2005, EDF worked with conservation groups on a fishing vessel and permit buyout that protected over three million acres of valuable ocean habitat, and a group of Morro Bay fisherman switched from trawling to using more selective and environmentally-friendly gear types, including traps and hook-and-line. Last year, these vessels fully complied with, and even exceeded, stringent catch limits.

“With a rising demand for safe, healthy and environmentally-friendly seafood from around the world, it is vital that we support our local fishermen and businesses that have the ability to bring these fish to market,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman. “By providing fishermen, ports, fishing businesses, and fishing organizations with an infusion of capital, the California Fisheries Fund helps coastal communities profit from sustainable fishing, including marketing their product and implementing important management innovations such as ‘catch shares.’” Chrisman was part of a prestigious working group of scientists, academics and elected officials that recommends catch share programs to President Obama in the Oceans of Abundance report.

Catch share programs provide fishermen with a guaranteed percentage of the catch based on boat size and fishing history. Recent studies have shown that catch shares and other reforms restore fisheries and spur new economic growth. One study, published in the journal Nature, conservatively estimated that catch shares could double the net economic value of U.S. commercial fisheries. The Pacific Fisheries Management Council adopted a catch share program, also called an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) system, for the trawling sector of west coast groundfish in late 2008. CFF was created in part to support fisheries that transition to catch shares. CFF also invests in other coastal California businesses that are adapting “green” business and management practices as a cornerstone to how they harvest, process and market fish.

“We all have a role to play in protecting our ocean resources and building up economically-viable coastal communities,” said David H. Festa, vice president of west coast operations for Environmental Defense Fund and the former director of Policy and Strategic Planning at the Department of Commerce.

“The California Fisheries Fund is a great model for how public and private interests can work together with fishermen and the seafood industry to achieve common objectives of economic and environmental prosperity.”

CFF is funded in part by the California Ocean Protection Council, which coordinates the protection and management of California's ocean and coastal resources, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which supports communities that are working to improve the sustainability of their fisheries. The state of California has invested two million dollars into the CFF and the Moore Foundation and other private foundations have invested another three million dollars.

About California Fisheries Fund

The California Fisheries Fund (CFF) is a $5 million revolving loan fund that supports fishing communities working to improve the sustainability of their fisheries. CFF invests in innovative projects that will lead to more stable and profitable fisheries, including management changes such as catch shares and more localized management. California-based fishermen and fishery related businesses that share in the fund’s goals to promote conservation and community benefits may apply for a loan at www.californiafisheriesfund.org.

About Environmental Defense Fund

A leading national nonprofit organization, Environmental Defense Fund represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visit www.edf.org. To download a Seafood Selector card please go to www.edf.org/seafood. And to view a short video about how catch shares have improved fishing in Alaska please go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE1qpzw-IcE.

About Central Coast Seafood and Morro Bay Fish Company

Central Coast Seafood is a fast growing and progressive seafood distributor in California with an efficient network that services retailers and restaurants from Ventura County in the south, to the greater San Francisco Bay area in the north (www.ccseafood.com). Founded in 2006, Morro Bay Fish Company is run by local fishermen who take the greatest pride and care in the quality of their product. (www.morrobayfish.com).