Ocean Currents

Fish Populations Making Comeback, NOAA Report Says

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With a lot of hard work, a new trend is beginning to emerge for America’s fisheries: Good news.

A new report from NOAA shows that six populations of fish have been officially declared rebuilt in 2011, bringing that total number to 27. Fifty-one others are in process of rebuilding, while six are having plans put together now.

Of the 258 marine fish populations managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, only 36 are currently subject to overfishing. Forty-five are overfished, but due to the precise (read: weird) nature of fishery science, a fish population can be considered overfished while recovering.

Gulf red snapper is the perfect example. Its numbers have rebounded greatly over the past 2+ years, and its allowable catch levels have increased in a benefit to everyone involved, but it is still designated as overfished.

That will change as soon as scientists determine the population has fully recovered from decades of overfishing and depletion — a timeline the fishery management plan estimates to be around 2032. Recovery is ongoing, but full population restoration takes more time.

That’s a lot of numbers but what does it all mean? In short, the Magnuson-Stevens Act is working. We have laws on how wild marine fish are to be harvested: specifically Magnuson-Stevens (MSA).

The goal is to catch the fish we need for food and recreational while still preserving enough to ensure future generations. MSA added real teeth to management, set specific dates when plans needed to be put in place by regulators for overfished stocks, and set 2012 as the year overfishing must end.

The news from NOAA shows that it worked and continues to work. And while nothing — least of all MSA — is perfect, to repeal and/or water it down now would be snapping defeat from the jaws of victory.

Magnuson is working. Let it work.

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