Progress made in rebuilding and sustaining US fisheries and ocean ecosystems

25 Mar 2010
The last decade has been a period of progress in gaining a better understanding of the relationships between marine species and their habitats. Credit: Nick Hobgood

The last decade has been a period of progress in gaining a better understanding of the relationships between marine species and their habitats. Credit: Nick Hobgood

A new report from NOAA shows that the last decade has been a period of progress for US fisheries and ocean ecosystems.

A new NOAA report shows that the last decade has been a period of progress in rebuilding depleted fish stocks, sustaining many fisheries populations, and gaining a better understanding of the complex relationships between marine species and their habitats.

The report cites the Alaskan groundfish fisheries - walleye pollock, Pacific cod, rockfishes and Atka mackerel - as a prime example of how managers and fishermen are working together to keep fish harvest rates at sustainable levels while reducing risks to other species in the ecosystem, including marine mammals, juvenile fish and other fish species not being targeted.

These findings are one of a number of highlights from the nation’s coastal communities that are described in the newly released NOAA report Our Living Oceans: Report on the Status of US Living Marine Resources.

The report also describes how closed areas and other management of fishing areas - called place-based management - are helping to restore ecosystems. By closing several areas in the Northeast off New England, depleted groundfish stocks are being rebuilt while allowing some sustainable fishing for rebuilt populations of sea scallops. The West Coast is in the forefront of using place-based management through a network of marine conservation areas that have been established to protect habitat and assist in the rebuilding of depleted groundfish populations.

While the report details much progress, it also outlines significant challenges, including ending overfishing for about 20 per cent of US stocks where overfishing persists.

The Northeast continues to have the largest number of overfished stocks of any region, despite significant progress with some stocks due to fishing restrictions. Other areas of concern include the low populations of reef fishes - which grow slowly and reproduce late - in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, where fishing has increased as human populations have grown.

This sixth edition of Our Living Oceans, is now available online at www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/LivingOceans.html

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