Overfishing by US Fishermen Will End This Year - First Time in a Century

new bedford fishing boats photo

photo: Dave Palmater/Creative Commons

It seems too good to be true, and the final data won't be in for a few months to confirm it, but the outgoing chief scientist of NOAA's Fisheries Service, Steve Murawski, has told Huffington Post that he expects the final catch stats for the 2010 season to show that for the first time in a century US fishermen won't be catching too much of any one species.A long sentence and a big thing to get your heard around. There's certainly some unpacking to do. First, let's remember that in May last year NOAA declared that four US fish stocks had been rebuilt to healthy levels--so conservation and fisheries management efforts have been working, even if globally overfishing is still a large problem. Second, it's important to distinguish between overfishing (where more fish are taken than are being naturally replenished) and overfished (where a population is at low levels from overfishing).

So here's the evidence that overfishing by US fishermen will soon be over:

About two-thirds of the current fishing year, which ends April 30, federal data indicated New England fishermen were on pace to catch fewer than their allotted fish in all but one stock, Georges Bank winter flounder. But Murawski said he didn't expect fishermen would exceed their quota on any stock. In other regions with overfishing--the South Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean--regulators project catch limits and other measures will end overfishing this fishing year. Already, South Atlantic black grouper and Gulf of Mexico red snapper are no longer being overfished.

Important to remember is, should the final stats bear out Murawski's expectations, that this is just for the past fishing year. It took lots of regulatory and fisheries management work, not to mention great hardship for fishing communities as they adjust to new fishing levels in line with what is ecologically sustainable, to bring this about. It's a good news certainly, but for it to be continued good news, continued diligence and awareness are vital.

Also important to remember that this is just for US fishermen. When it comes to global fisheries, there are many countries out there that continue to turn a blind eye to the very real--but as the US experience may show, certainly not intractable--problem of overfishing.

Read more: Huffington Post
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More on Overfishing:
How Bad Is Overfishing & What Can We Do To Stop It?
Eco-Myth: Humans Have ONly Been Overfishing World's Oceans in Modern Times
Conservation Works: NOAA Declares Four US Fish Stocks Rebuilt to Healthy Levels

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