Ed is vice president of community ecosystem services at Ecotrust, where he oversees the integration of the conservation organization’s fisheries, forests, and native affairs programs. He lives in Newport, Oregon, and founded the $6 million North Pacific Fisheries Trust, a community fisheries quota revolving loan fund.
How did you first become involved in the marine world?
I grew up in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in a marine science family. My father worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and my mother was an aquatic entomologist. After college I worked in various water-related jobs. I fished commercially in Nantucket. It was just me and two other guys on a small boat catching codfish by hand all day.
In the early 1980s I detected that commercial fishing there was in decline. The Minerals Management Service was getting ready to make oil exploration leases. I worked in the marine bird group doing background research and started thinking about how ocean resources are managed, and what would happen if we had oil drilling in the largest, most historic and successful commercial fishery in the U.S.
Why did you start working for Ecotrust?
My first long-term job after grad school was with a Nature Conservancy International program. Ecotrust spun off from Conservation International in 1991 and focused on coastal temperate rainforests in North America. Initially I ran information systems and regional planning. Then I moved into the fisheries sector.
Ecotrust integrates ecological, social, and economic systems—the triple bottom line. The recipe for resilience is to look at all three. If we’re going to adapt to climate change and increasing stresses from population growth and ocean acidification, we have to look at the whole package.
What are you working on right now?
We have the North Pacific Fisheries Trust and projects for improved electronic monitoring of fish harvesting so the branded seafood products that come from fishing communities along the West Coast have more transparency.
If we simply go to a market-based catcher system, it tends to deconstruct the social fabric of fishing communities and create what some call an “economic elite” in the fishing sector. You get stronger conservation stewardship by reducing fishing efforts, improving bycatch practices, and maintaining social equity.
What motivates your work at Ecotrust?
In Oregon, wave energy development has made fishing communities nervous about being displaced. Ocean acidification comes from carbon dioxide emissions so we need renewable sources of energy to deal with the root of the problem. We also need to protect marine biodiversity. At Ecotrust we’ve worked on marine spatial planning to figure out how alternative ocean uses will affect fisheries. This has provided a good, if not controversial, platform for discussion.
What do you envision your role to be in the Future of Fish project?
There are two areas I’d like to work on with Cohort members. One is brand practices—being transparent about fishing practices and how they contribute to conservation and good fishery management. The other is bringing that transparency into the marketplace.
What will the future be like for fish?
We’re at critical moment. I hope in 10 years we look back and see that we’ve turned a corner, that we figured out how to protect habitats, how not to overfish, how to get higher value from the products we harvest in the ocean, and that we’re explicit about having conservation-based fisheries—and that saying so is no longer such a political hot button.