A couple of weeks ago I went on a mackerel fishing trip out of St. Petersburg, Florida, with a 35-year commercial fishing veteran. It was a beautiful day and there was the slightest tinge of autumn out on the Gulf of Mexico, and we quickly caught the day’s order of Spanish and King mackerel. Heading back through John’s Pass I asked my friend, who also fishes for Gulf snapper and grouper, how business has been and without missing a beat he said “The last two years have been the best of my career.”
Another crucial U.S. fish stock is rebuilt, reinforcing the importance of a strong Magnuson-Stevens Act
Earlier this week federal managers of West Coast U.S. fish stocks found that canary rockfish is rebuilt. This is great news for fishermen, seafood consumers, and conservationists, as it means a healthy population that puts more fresh seafood on American plates and supports a stronger ocean ecosystem. Canary rockfish is important in its own right as a species, but this finding allows for increased fishing of other fish populations that swim alongside it – canary is common as bycatch, or non-targeted species that also get caught in fishing gear, and increased catch levels will enable greater fishing opportunities of other species.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council, the federal group that co-manages our nation’s fisheries off of Washington, Oregon, and California approved the analysis done by NOAA Fisheries today, starting what will most likely be a revision of catch limits, and an official update to the “Status of Stocks,” NOAA Fisheries’ official score-keeping tabulation of stocks nationally.
Since 2007, the percentage of stocks that are facing overfishing, or that are already overfished, has decreased—even though fishing is increasing. This points to positive rebuilding progress for our nation’s fisheries. It is clear that sound science and managing the long term future of our fisheries is working for America’s fish stocks as well as for the country’s economy.
While we may have a new Congress, they are still fishing for the same trouble. Despite hearing from more than 31,000 Ocean Conservancy members to throw the bill back, Representative Don Young (R-AK) reintroduced the same legislation attempting to weaken our federal fisheries law that former Representative Doc Hastings was pushing last year.
This bill is a step back for America’s fisheries, fishermen and coastal communities. Instead of gutting our nation’s fishery conservation safeguards, we should be strengthening the Magnuson-Stevens Act to support healthy, productive fisheries and fishing communities.
We’ve made incredible progress in reversing overfishing. This has been good for both the environment and jobs in fishing. Through smart fishery legislation, we’ve been able to bring back fish populations that were crashing due to years of overfishing.
But all of our progress is about to be destroyed! In the House of Representatives, Rep. Hastings (R-WA) is working to reverse the very legislation that has brought our ocean and fishermen such success. Rep. Hastings is trying to pass legislation that would create a new law that would allow overfishing and would eliminate deadlines to rebuild fish populations.
“Healthy oceans and well-managed fisheries improve coastal economies, enhance recreational fishing opportunities and provide fresh, local seafood to consumers.”
Hard to argue with that logic, right? We need well-managed fisheries to support millions of American jobs, and a healthy ocean environment. We have legislation in the United States, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) that does an excellent job of managing our fisheries for people and the environment. This is why it’s surprising that there are some members of Congress who are trying to roll back key components of the MSA. Two former Assistant Administrators in charge of Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) took to Roll Call this week to argue that the MSA needs to remain strong. It’s hard to argue with their logic. Dr. Hogarth served under President Bush from 2001 – 2007. Mr. Schwaab held the same position under President Obama from 2010 – 2012.
In elementary school, we learned through basic math that 1 + 1 = 2 and 2 x 2 = 4. As we grew up, math became more complicated with different variables and formulas, but we always knew that 1 + 1 = 2 and 2 x 2 = 4. Fisheries math is not all that different.
Each year, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use fishery math and science to determine how many fish can be removed from fisheries in a sustainable manner, and the number of fish that can be removed is called the annual catch limit (ACL). If species fall below a level that is sustainable, managers put in a rebuilding plan – a roadmap to rebuild the stock to a healthy level.