NOAA’s Fisheries Service reported to Congress earlier this week that four stocks — Atlantic bluefish, Gulf of Mexico king mackerel and two stocks of monkfish in the Atlantic — have been rebuilt to allow for continued sustainable fishing.
NOAA and the regional fishery management councils are, under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, required to end overfishing and prevent future overfishing through annual catch limits and accountability measures. This is the largest number of stocks to be declared rebuilt in a single year since the fisheries service declared the first stock successfully rebuilt in 2001.
Jim Balsiger, acting NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Serivce said “NOAA strongly supports establishing catch share programs that allocate the annual catch to participants in the fishery to give fishermen an economic incentive to conserve fish stocks for the long term.”
Three stocks — thorny skate, Atlantic blacknose shark and Atlantic shortfin mako shark — were added this year to the list of those that are being fished unsustainably. A fourth stock, Gulf of Mexico pink shrimp, was also listed as subject to overfishing but the stock assessment is still being reviewed.
The fish stock sustainability index however shows a constant increase since 2000, from 357.5 to 555.5 in 2008, meaning 55 percent more fish stocks are sustainable in only 8 years.
The report states NOAA scientists reviewed 199 stocks and stock complexes to determine if they were overfished — meaning the population is too low to ensure a maximum sustainable harvest — and found that 153 of them (77 percent) are not overfished, and 46 (23 percent) are overfished.
They further reviewed 251 other stocks or stock complexes to see if they were currently fished at a level that would threaten them and found only 41 (16 percent) are.
These percentages mean a 1 percent improvement in both categories since 2007 – 1 percent less stocks are being overfished and 1 percent less are likely to get to threatening levels.
NOAA Fisheries Services proved success with the reported 4 stocks and 10 others that were rebuilt since 2001. This year’s report though also shows the major challenges to face to end overfishing on other domestic fish stocks in 2010. Some of these stocks are managed under international agreements and actions by the international community is critical.
Materials adapted from NOAA.gov and the NMFS, 2009, Annual Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries-2008, U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA, Natl., Mar. Fish. Serv., Silver Spring, MD, 23pp.
Copyright © 2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC