U.S. Overfished Stocks Doing Better

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) was first passed in 1976. It is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in U.S. federal waters. The Act fosters long-term biological and economic sustainability of our nation’s marine fisheries out to 200 nautical miles from shore. Under the Act, eight regional fishery management councils develop fishery management plans specific to their regions, fisheries, and fish stocks. The objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act are to prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, increase long-term economic and social benefits, use reliable data and sound science, conserve essential fish habitat and ensure a safe and sustainable supply of seafood.

Since 1996, NOAA Fisheries has reported on the status of U.S. fisheries to Congress, as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Reporting on the status of fish stocks provides fisheries managers and the public with an account of how well current fisheries management measures are working. The 2017 report to Congress was released in May and showed positive progress in rebuilding the nation’s fish stocks.

According to the report the number of domestic fish stocks listed as overfished has reached an all-time low, with three species of West Coast rockfish rebuilt to sustainable levels. The number of stocks on the overfishing list also remained near all-time lows, an indicator that the U.S. fishery management system is achieving its long-term sustainability goals.

“Ending overfishing and rebuilding stocks provides two key benefits for the American people,” said Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “First, it strengthens the value of U.S. fisheries’ contribution to the economy, which in 2015 exceeded $208 billion dollars. Second, it supports the communities and marine ecosystems that depend on healthy fisheries.”

Three West Coast stocks were rebuilt to target levels in 2017, bringing the total number of rebuilt U.S. marine fish stocks to 44 since 2000. They are Bocaccio, Darkblotched Rockfish and Pacific Ocean Perch.

At the end of 2017 the overfishing list included 30 stocks and the overfished list included 35 stocks. The report showed that 91 percent of U.S. marine fish stocks are not subject to overfishing and 87 percent are not overfished.

The six stocks removed from the overfishing list were the Sailfish (Western Atlantic), Blue King Crab (Pribilof Islands), Puerto Rico Wrasses Complex, Coho Salmon (Puget Sound), Winter Flounder (Georges Bank) and the Witch Flounder (Northwestern Atlantic Coast).

The six stocks that came off the overfished list are the Yelloweye Rockfish (Pacific Coast), Winter Flounder (Georges Bank), Gray Triggerfish (Gulf of Mexico), Pacific Ocean Perch (Pacific Coast) and the Bluefin Tuna (West Atlantic).

“Rebuilding stocks to fully utilize our fisheries is one way NOAA can reduce our nation’s seafood deficit,” said Oliver. “We look forward to exploring innovative approaches to fisheries management and working with our partners to ensure America’s fisheries remain the world’s most sustainable.”

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