NOAA: Slightly less overfishing in the US

08 Jun 2010
According to NOAA, 250 stocks or stock complexes have known overfishing determinations: 212 (85%) are not subject to overfishing and 38 (15%) are subject to overfishing. (Photo: NOAA)

According to NOAA, 250 stocks or stock complexes have known overfishing determinations: 212 (85%) are not subject to overfishing and 38 (15%) are subject to overfishing. (Photo: NOAA)

There has been a small reduction in the number of US fisheries that are deemed as being overfished, according to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Eric Schwaab, the NOAA assistant administrator for fisheries has delivered the NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service’s Report on the status of US fisheries for 2009.

Stocks discussed in this report are characterised under two broad categories: (1) subject to overfishing and (2) overfished.

A stock that is subject to overfishing has a fishing mortality (harvest) rate above the level that provides for the maximum sustainable yield. A stock that is overfished has a biomass level below a biological threshold specified in its fishery management plan.

For 2009, NMFS reviewed 5,221 individual stocks and stock complexes and made determinations of both overfishing and overfished status for 193 stocks and complexes; an additional 67 have either an overfishing or overfished determination.

Two hundred fifty stocks or stock complexes have known overfishing determinations: 212 (85%) are not subject to overfishing and 38 (15%) are subject to overfishing. These percentages are a slight improvement from last year’s report, in which 84% were not subject to overfishing and 16% were.

This slight improvement in the percentages reflects new assessments which have added to the number of stocks with known overfishing determinations as well as stocks no longer subject to overfishing.

Two stocks are no longer subject to overfishing: scup – Atlantic coast and thorny skate – Gulf of Maine. A third stock, pink shrimp – Gulf of Mexico, was found to not be subject to overfishing because the previous assessment was invalidated. No stock was listed as subject to overfishing in 2009.

Two hundred and three stocks have known overfished determinations: 157 (77%) are not overfished and 46 (23%) are overfished. These percentages are unchanged from last year’s report.

Five stocks are no longer overfished: scup – Atlantic coast, winter skate – Georges Bank/southern New England, bocaccio – southern Pacific coast, darkblotched rockfish – Pacific coast, and sailfish– western Atlantic.

Four stocks have become overfished: canary rockfish – Pacific coast, coho salmon – Washington coast: Queets, coho salmon – Washington coast: Western Strait of Juan de Fuca and Petrale sole – Pacific coast.

One stock, previously listed as unknown, has been determined to be overfished: gag – Gulf of Mexico.

Four stocks have fully rebuilt to 100% of their BMSY 4 levels: Scup - Atlantic coast, black seabass – mid-Atlantic Coast, blue king crab – St Matthews Island, and swordfish – north Atlantic.

Management of four additional stocks has resulted in biomass levels of at least 80% of their maximum sustainable levels: greenstriped rockfish – Pacific coast, splitnose rockfish – Pacific coast, rex sole – Gulf of Alaska, and walleye pollock – western/central Gulf of Alaska.

NMFS measures progress towards the sustainability of our nation’s fisheries through the Fish Stock Sustainability Index (FSSI).

The FSSI measures the performance of 230 key stocks and increases as additional assessments are conducted, overfishing is ended and stocks rebuild to the level that provides maximum sustainable yield.

This index increased from 357.5 in 2000 to 573 in 2009. The 60% increase in the FSSI in nine years represents significant progress in improving the knowledge of stock status and sustainably managing fisheries, said NOAA.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires that NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) report annually to Congress and the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils (Councils) on the status of fisheries (Sec. 304(e)(1)). This report fulfills that requirement.

The information in this report was generated by the NMFS’ regional offices and science centres based on the most recent stock assessments as of December 31, 2009.

Status determinations are generally made during a formal review of a scientific stock assessment using the best available scientific information and status determination criteria specified in a fishery management plan.

More information about the FSSI can be found at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/statusoffisheries/

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