The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
The Future of U.S. Fisheries: An Ecosystem-Based Approach
By Lee Crockett
Fishing for shad on the Potomac River at Fletcher’s Boathouse is a spring tradition for many Washington-area anglers, including me. As a food source for larger fish, birds of prey and other animals, shad provide a great example of the interconnectedness of nature—which for decades hasn’t received enough attention from fisheries managers.
Although we’ve made remarkable progress toward ending overfishing and restoring depleted populations, we have been missing the bigger picture by focusing on individual species—the marine version of missing the forest for the trees. Managers need to take a more thorough look at the current impacts of fishing on entire marine ecosystems and new broader threatsfacing our oceans.
Hundreds of fishermen, conservationists, managers and ocean experts from around the country are gathered in Washington, DC May 7-9 for a summit hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the regional fishery councils. The conference, Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries 3, will provide a rare opportunity for stakeholders to discuss an array of fishery issues facing our nation. My hope is that this discussion will build on past achievements and identify new ways to better meet remaining and future challenges.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the bedrock law governing U.S. fisheries, is up for debate and amendment in Congress. This conference will formally launch the reauthorization discussion.
In the 1960s and 1970s, fishing by large foreign vessels in U.S. waters brought many valuable commercial species to the brink of collapse. The Act’s passage in 1976 pushed out the foreign fleet, promoted the U.S fleet and put the nation’s ocean fish populations under U.S. control. This was strong progress. Unfortunately, domestic overfishing soon replaced the overexploitation by foreign vessels. Along with this came damage to ocean ecosystems from indiscriminate industrial fishing practices. So Congress strengthened the law in 1996 by calling for an end to overfishing, the restoration of depleted fish populations, the protection of important fish habitats and the minimization of the catching and killing of nontarget ocean wildlife. Regrettably, overfishing remained a particular problem, which Congress addressed by amending the act again in 2006.
After decades of hard work and innovation, the U.S. now boasts one of the best fisheries management systems in the world: with science-based catch limits designed to end overfishing on all federally managed species and 32 previously depleted species rebuilt to healthy levels since 2001. These hard-won successes are profiled in Pew’s new report, The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
While we have made significant progress protecting and restoring individual species over the past two decades, there’s still much work to be done. As far back as 1996, Congress recognized that ending overfishing was just the beginning of sustainable fisheries management and it added amendments to Magnuson-Stevens to address the cumulative effects of fishing on marine ecosystems.
We now need to do more to ensure healthy oceans by protecting essential forage fish, small prey species that our valuable fish populations rely upon and by reducing the effects of destructive fishing practices on habitats. Finally, we need to rethink how we broadly manage our oceans, in order to minimize the effects of individual decisions on the ecosystem. Doing so can help safeguard our gains while allowing us to handle new global threats to our oceans, including warming waters and ocean acidification.
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.
Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.
Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.
At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.
By Sabrina Kessler
Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.
By Alex Robinson
Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.
The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.
Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.