Good News Gets No Press


Steven Hedlund

Published on
June 29, 2008

The National Marine Fisheries Service released its annual report card on the status of U.S. fisheries on Friday, and, to the delight of the seafood community, the news is quite encouraging.

Of the 244 stocks and multi-species groupings known as complexes reviewed last year, 41 were regarded as subject to overfishing, down from 48 in 2006. The seven species removed from the overfishing list are north monkfish, south monkfish, winter skate, Gulf of Mexico red grouper, petrale sole, central western Pacific yellowfin tuna and Atlantic bigeye tuna.

Of the 190 stocks and complexes reviewed, 45 were overfished, down from 47 in 2006. Four species (canary rockfish, Pacific ocean perch, Saint Matthews Island blue king crab and Atlantic bigeye tuna) were subtracted from the overfished list, but two (winter skate and summer flounder) were added.

What's more, 83 percent of stocks and complexes were not subject to overfishing and 76 percent were not overfished in 2007, up from 80 percent and 75 percent, respectively, in 2006. "Overfishing" means the catch is above the target set in the fishery's management plan, while "overfished" factors in a safety margin ensuring the stock is able to recover.

"We took a giant step forward" in 2007, says Jim Balsiger, NOAA's acting assistant administrator for fisheries.

"It is heartening," says John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute. "It shows not only the seafood community's commitment to sustainability but the effectiveness of the fisheries management system."

Unfortunately, the annual report card usually garners little, if any, attention from the mainstream media, and this year is no exception. This morning I found only one U.S. media outlet, the Miami Herald, that had reported on the report card since Friday.

This story deserves much more press. But the fed's resources are limited - it can't compete with the media savvy NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that funnel a boatload of resources toward promoting their what-to-eat, what-not-to-eat seafood lists.

That's why it's up to retailers and foodservice operators to inform consumers that, according to federal fisheries managers, the overall health of U.S. fisheries is improving. If they don't, the annual report card will fall by the wayside.

Best regards,
Steven Hedlund
Associate Editor
SeaFood Business

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