Here's some good environmental news to kick off a year that began rather depressingly in other regards: The United States has, for the first time, moved "to impose catch limits for every species it manages, from Alaskan pollock to Caribbean queen conch," the Washington Post reports.
That means each of the 528 commercially fished species that the U.S. oversees will have distinct catch limits that prohibit overfishing and protect stocks that are rapidly being depleted. This is some really big news, too – and not just for the U.S. This is the first law of its kind on the books in any nation; the first law that establishes mandatory catch limits for impacted species.
And it's bipartisan to boot! Here's the WaPo:
Five years ago, Bush signed a reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which dates to the mid-1970s and governs all fishing in U.S. waters. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers joined environmental groups, some fishing interests and scientists to insert language in the law requiring each fishery to have annual catch limits in place by the end of 2011 to end overfishing.Though a handful of fisheries missed the deadline, most are in, and the remaining few will trickle in this year. There will, in other words, be catch limits for all managed fish species by the end of 2012. Some commercial fishing companies and recreational fishing areas are predictably pissed, but considering the rapid decline of stocks in many of these areas, the law is practical and much-needed.
I can't help but think of the Atlantic bluefin tuna – a fish that is gravely endangered and yet is being fished into oblivion – in light of the new policy. There are numerous fish species that share the bluefin's plight (though few that fetch three-quarters of a million dollars a piece on the luxury sushi market), and without swift, decisive action, many will be lost.
Frankly, it's a bit surprising that leadership is coming from the United States on this one; the way it has dragged its feet on climate change, it seems like the U.S. hasn't led on an environmental issue forever. But indeed, this development has encouraged European bodies to consider instituting similar catch limits to ward off the demise of its ailing fisheries. More efforts like this will be necessary around the world if we hope to stay the global decline in fish stocks.