Together Americans are solving a problem—overfishing—and we can’t afford to stop now. Ending overfishing means sustainable fishing for generations to come. It means healthy seafood on our dinner plates and sustained livelihoods across the country.
Our nation’s vital fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation & Management Act, has already helped rebuild fish populations like New England scallops, Mid-Atlantic bluefish, Pacific lingcod and Gulf red snapper. A new report by the National Research Council says 43 percent of overfished populations have been rebuilt already or will be rebuilt within a decade. And if we continue to allow the Magnuson-Stevens Act to work, another 31 percent of these populations are on track toward rebuilding as well.
The report also highlights the challenges and complexities of trying to evaluate fisheries science and make decisions about catch limits and other management measures. In the face of those challenges, however, we are seeing success and must continue on this path for the long haul.
On Wednesday, Ocean Conservancy’s Director of Ecosystem Conservation Programs, Chris Dorsett, will be testifying to this effect in front of Congress. He’ll be speaking about the broader success of the Magnuson-Stevens Act as well as some of the recommendations put forth in the National Research Council report, such as the need to look beyond one fish population at a time, taking into account the entire ecosystem in which they live.
In the case of successful fisheries management, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Our best option is to avoid depleted populations in the first place by preventing overfishing. To ensure continued progress in transitioning our fisheries to long-term sustainability, lawmakers should only be strengthening this law.
You can read more about the fisheries successes we’ve seen so far in “The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act,” a report produced by Ocean Conservancy and The Pew Charitable Trusts. This primer and collection of stories explains how successful fishermen from Alaska to Maine have helped turn around decades of overfishing.
Here’s an excerpt:
Clem Tillion: The courage to keep fisheries healthy
When Clem Tillion settled in Alaska after World War II, he found out what happens when government ducks the hard decisions that keep fisheries healthy. He became one of many citizens of the northern territory who fought successfully for statehood so that they could start fixing the damage. They made sacrifices to restore broken-down salmon populations, enduring years of closures that cut into their primary livelihood. It was gritty, commonsense conservation.
And it worked. Fish stocks struggled back to health, then roared to new peaks, and Alaskans prospered as never before. Along the way, Tillion joined a generation of coastal leaders who knew firsthand that rigorous controls on catch were the only way to protect the resources that would feed their children and grandchildren.
Those hard-earned lessons would eventually become the backbone of Alaska’s famously abundant modern fisheries—and the reason so many American fisheries are on the mend today.”
Check out the full report to read more of these stories and learn how we can protect the future of fish.