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On the Upswing: All Federally Managed Fisheries Will Set Sustainable Limits for 2012


(c) Wolcott Henry 2005/Marine Photobank

Shrimp trawler, Key West, FL. Photo: (c) Wolcott Henry 2005/Marine Photobank

The United States is the first nation to set catch limits on all of the fish species that it manages, effective at the beginning of all 2012 fishing seasons. This legislation started in 2007 under President Bush, who signed a reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act with a mandate that each fishery would have annual catch limits in place by the end of 2011 to end overfishing. This is an important step to secure the future of our country for the jobs that rely on the fishing industry, the environment that relies on a balanced ecosystem, and for citizens who consume fish as a healthy, high protein food source.

Regional councils made up of multiple stakeholders assess scientific, economic and social data in order to make decisions about the fish stocks in their assigned location. In the past, catch limits have not always been set at sustainable levels and we have seen declines in some fish stocks. The new limits require these councils to set catch limits based on scientific data to ensure that stocks are not being overfished and that those that have already been depleted be set on the path to recovery. NOAA has finalized 40 of the 46 fishery management plans and will have the remaining 6 completed before the opening of the 2012 fishing season for all species.

Maria Honig, WWF Responsible Fisheries Programme/Marine Photobank
Swordfish on Longline. Photo: Maria Honig, WWF Responsible Fisheries Programme/Marine Photobank

Although this legislation was initiated by George W. Bush and supported by Barack Obama, it is not without critics. Some people in the commercial and recreation fishing industries are worried that these limits may be based on incomplete science and that improper limits may unnecessarily hurt jobs. NOAA has continually updated and improved their science but due to budget limitations and the difficulty of acquiring data, it has been challenging to accurately analyze all fisheries, especially recreational fisheries. NOAA utilizes everything it can to come up with the best statistics that can predict what limits need to be set.

“Reaching this milestone represents a historic achievement and I want to particularly recognize the tremendous amount of effort and sacrifice on the part of our nation’s fishermen and fishing communities to get us here, ” explained Eric Schwaab, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Conservation and Management at NOAA. “Catch limits and accountability measures to rebuild stocks and ensure sustainable fisheries represent a collective investment in the future of fishing.  And while these benefits will accrue for generations to come, in many cases they do require short-term cost.” This has set an example for the rest of the world to follow in regard to sustainability in the ocean and the European Union is already beginning discussions on whether to initiate similar legislation.


Read the entire story by Juliet Eilperin, from the Washington Post, here.

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