National Geographic report on “Big bounce back” in “U.S. fish stock”

"Surf fishermen try their luck for bluefish off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina."  Photograph by Tyrone Turner, National Geographic
“Surf fishermen try their luck for bluefish off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.”
Photograph by Tyrone Turner, National Geographic

Brian Handwerk reports for National Geographic News that,  Two-thirds of the closely monitored U.S. fish species once devastated by overfishing have bounced back in a big way thanks to management plans instituted 10 to 15 years ago, a new study says.”

Hurray for forsight!  “And the fish aren’t the only ones celebrating,” Handwerk states, as, “Recovering populatations can mean more revenue and jobs for some fisherman–but unfortunately success hasn’t been universal.”

Here are some of the details of this new study, authored principally by Brad Sewell and published by the National Resources Defense Council.

Handwerk writes:

The study used in-depth stock assessments and other data from NOAA’sNational Marine Fisheries Service to chart the progress of stocks managed under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. That law was revamped by Congress in 1996, in an attempt to address plunging fish populations around America’s coastlines, mandating that stocks be rebuilt within a decade (some were granted exceptions).

The NRDC report charts progress for the 44 stocks that have sufficient population and catch data under the act and found nearly two-thirds, some 28 stocks, have now been designated as fully rebuilt or as having made significant progress toward sustainable populations. The study doesn’t include species not managed under Magnuson-Stevens, those for which recent stock assessments aren’t available, or those fished internationally.

Despite those omissions, the success of so many rebuilding plans has delivered an economic boon to many fishermen, Sewell said. Gross commercial fishing revenues from the 28 rebuilt stocks were 54 percent higher when adjusted for inflation during the 2008-2010 period than they were when rebuilding began.

“The system overall is working and making progress,” said Galen Tromble, of NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Sustainable Fisheries. “We just have to keep doing the science, collecting all the data we can, and then adjusting our management accordingly.” (Related: “Entrepreneurs Fight for the Future of Fish.”)

Fishery Successes and Struggles

The report also reveals some rough patches. Eight of the fish stocks evaluated have made only limited progress and eight others saw very little progress at all.

Regional trends show some successes, like the mid-Atlantic’s bluefish, flounder, and black sea bass, while other species have struggled, like greater amberjack in the Gulf of Mexico.

Part of the problem, both Tromble and Sewell noted, was continued overfishing in some areas.

Click here to read the full report.


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