A record six U.S. fish stocks rebuilt in 2011
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Fisheries Service on Monday released its annual report card, called the “Status of U.S. Fisheries,” which has been issued to Congress annually since 1997.
Of the 258 stocks and multi-species groupings known as complexes NOAA scientists reviewed for “overfishing” status in 2011, 222 stocks, or 86 percent, were not subject to overfishing, an improvement from 2010 when 84 percent, or 213 out of 253 stocks, were not subject to overfishing.
Of the 219 stocks and complexes reviewed for “overfished” status in 2011, 174 stocks, or 79 percent, were not overfished, compared to 77 percent, or 159 out of 207 stocks, in 2010. Thirteen of those 45 overfished stocks were located off New England, the most of any geographic region.
“Overfishing” means that the catch rate exceeds the level deemed necessary to rebuild a population, while “overfished” is a measure of the overall population in which the population is too low and below a prescribed threshold, according to NOAA Fisheries. A population can be overfished but managed under a rebuilding plan that over time returns the population to health, said the agency.
Also, a record six fish stocks were rebuilt to healthy levels in 2011, bringing to 27 the number of stocks that have been rebuilt in the last 11 years. They are Bering Sea snow crab, widow rockfish, chinook salmon (North California Coast, Klamath Fall), coho salmon (Washington Coast, Queets), summer flounder and Gulf of Maine haddock.
“[Most] rebuilding plans started 10 to 15 years ago after Congress amended the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1996, so we’re starting to see the results of that,” said Galen Tromble, NOAA Fisheries’ division chief for domestic fisheries, in a press briefing on Monday. Tromble also credited the industry and fishermen for their sacrifices.
However, six stocks were newly determined to be overfished in 2010 and 2011. Rebuilding plans are currently being developed for these stocks and must be in place within two years of an overfished determination. Overall, 51 stocks are subject to rebuilding plans, with six additional plans in development.
A total of 537 fish stocks were reviewed, though stocks vary in importance, as some are more commercially valuable than others. NOAA Fisheries measures the sustainability of the country’s fisheries through its Fish Stock Sustainability Index (FSSI), which gauges the performance of 230 key stocks. The FSSI was first reported in 2005, with an end-of-year score of 495.5 points out of a possible 920 points. Since then it has increased steadily, reaching 598.5 points at the end of last year.
About 130 stock assessments are updated annually, and most of the stocks in the report have been assessed in the past two to three years, said Tromble.
“With annual catch limits in place this year for all domestic fish populations and the continued commitment of fishermen to rebuild the stocks they rely on, we’re making even greater progress in ending overfishing and rebuilding stocks around the nation,” said Samuel Rauch, acting assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, in a press release. “Healthy and abundant fish populations and marine ecosystems support seafood for Americans, create lasting jobs and enhance saltwater recreational fishing opportunities.”