Seafood Watch upgrades US West Coast groundfish
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program on Tuesday upgraded 21 species of groundfish from its “avoid” list to rankings of “best choice” or “good alternative,” marking a significant change in the U.S. West Coast fisheries.
The new rankings come 14 years after the fishery received such a poor grade regarding sustainable fishing that the U.S. government declared it a federal disaster in 2000.
“This is one of the great success stories about ecological and economic recovery of a commercially important fishery,” said Margaret Spring, vice president of conservation and science, and chief conservation officer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “A huge part of the turnaround is reliance on science-based conservation and management practices that Congress endorsed in its 2006 update of U.S. fishery law.”
The rankings cover all groundfish species caught off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington, including various rockfish species, Dover sole, starry flounder and sand dabs. In 2000, many of these species’ fisheries were considered unsustainable.
Since then, however, a number of new regulations, including catch limits, closure of fishing areas and better monitoring systems have led to a rebounding of many of these stocks.
“This recognition highlights the success of the West Coast groundfish catch share program at improving the sustainability of the fishery,” said Frank Lockhart, head of the West Coast groundfish recovery effort for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries division. “Not only has it reduced impacts on the species we need to protect, but it has allowed fishermen increased flexibility to fish more effectively for the species they want — benefiting industry, fishing communities and seafood consumers."