NOAA Fisheries gets road map to ending overfishingBy Jeff Barnard, AP
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Task force urges faster move to reform fishing
Facing a 2011 deadline to end overfishing in U.S. waters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been working to expand the use of a management system designed to end the race for fish that has resulted in dozens of ocean species in trouble.
On Thursday, a task force handed the agency a set of recommendations to build support among fishermen and break through the bureaucracy that has held up wider adoption of catch shares. The system gives individual shares of the catch to fishermen, cooperatives or even communities, as well as responsibility not to overfish protected stocks. Each permit holder has a specific quota of fish they can catch, ending the race to gather as many fish as possible.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco has pushed the system as part of a comprehensive national ocean policy endorsed by President Barack Obama. But it can take years for regional fishery management councils that set commercial fishing seasons to work through the process.
The Environmental Defense Fund praised the recommendations, saying that catch shares have restored fish populations while improving the livelihoods of fishermen.
“This policy will reverse the freefall that U.S. fish stocks have been in for decades,” David Festa, vice president of Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement. “It moves fisheries management into the 21st Century.”
Congress gave NOAA until 2011 to end overfishing on all stocks in U.S. waters when it updated the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 2006.
Catch shares have been used in the U.S. since 1990, and now cover 13 fisheries, including Alaskan halibut, Gulf red snapper and Atlantic surf clams.
The scientific foundation comes from studies like one examining fisheries in New Zealand and Australia published in the journal Science in 2007. The report found that fishermen who owned a share of the harvest made more money fishing less while doing a better job of conserving the resource. The idea is when they no longer have to race to fill their nets they can concentrate on quality and efficiency.
The West Coast’s most valuable fishery, a group of bottom-dwelling species known as groundfish, has been rebuilding since 2000, when harvests were cut in half to protect overfished rockfish. Despite limiting harvests and cutting the fleet through buybacks, several groundfish species remain overfished. After five years of work, the fishery is to move into catch share management in 2011.
A prime candidate for the system is the New England groundfish fishery, which has been struggling for 15 years to rebuild cod and haddock stocks.
According to NOAA, commercial fishing contributes $28 billion a year to the economy, and rebuilding overfished stocks would increase the value of dockside landings by $2.2 billion.
Meanwhile, the nation’s appetite for fish outstrips domestic supply. Sixty percent of the seafood consumed comes from imports.
Tags: Barack Obama, Environmental Concerns, North America, United States, Wildlife