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Report Shows U.S. Fishery Managers Are On Track to End Overfishing
Adoption of catch limits, accountability measures intended to rebuild fish populations and sustain fisheries
WASHINGTON – On the 35th anniversary of the passage of the nation’s primary fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the Marine Fish Conservation Network issued a report showing that U.S. fishery managers are making significant progress toward the goal of ending overfishing through the adoption of annual catch limits and accountability measures. However, overfishing continued on one out of five fish stocks assessed in 2010, underscoring the need for cautious optimism.
The new report updates a 2007 status review of fisheries, which found many cases of chronic overfishing that continued year after year. Overfishing continues in regions where fishery managers have failed to heed scientific advice and keep fishing within sustainable limits. The result is depleted fish populations, declining catches, lower revenues and hardship for fishermen in some of the nation’s most historic fisheries, such as New England’s cod fishery. Catch limits and accountability measures are intended to prevent that from happening in the future.
“Ending overfishing has been a goal of the Magnuson-Stevens Act since its passage in 1976. With the establishment of a system of catch limits and accountability measures in all U.S. fisheries, fishery managers are poised to finally make good on that promise,” said Bruce Stedman, Executive Director of the Network.
According to the report, significant progress has been made at reducing the number of fish stocks subject to overfishing and rebuilding overfished stocks in those regions, such as New England, that are implementing and enforcing hard catch limits for the first time. In Alaska, where catch limits have been employed for years and where accountability measures are in place to halt overfishing promptly if it should occur, chronic overfishing has not been a problem and fisheries are thriving.
"The report is testimony to the potent effect of uniting stakeholders to address overfishing and to champion sustainable fisheries,” said Linda Behnken of the Alaska Longline Fisherman’s Association. “Continued progress depends on basing management decisions on sound science, dedicating adequate resources to stock assessment and catch accounting, and working together to protect the health and productivity of the ocean."
Numerous studies have shown that fisheries are far less productive than they would be if overfishing were halted and stocks were allowed to rebuild to healthy levels. With the adoption of catch limits and accountability for staying within the limit, overfished stocks are beginning to recover and fisheries are starting to see the benefits in the form of increased fishing quotas in regions such as New England and the Mid-Atlantic.
"The report recognizes the hard work of American fishermen, conservationists and scientists working together to make all of our nation's fisheries sustainable," said Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "Our next big challenge is to tackle the myriad of non-fishing impacts, such as pollution, that threaten our fisheries and oceans."
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