Ending Overfishing

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

img_28481

In 2006, Ocean Champions played a significant role in reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (M-S Act).  The M-S Act is the primary law governing marine fisheries in the United States.  A broad coalition of ocean conservation groups and ocean users, including Ocean Champions, achieved a major victory in 2006 with the passage of a strong reauthorization (which was no easy task given the leadership in Congress and the White House at the time).  While the M-S Act covers a lot of ground, its principle goal is to stop and prevent overfishing.  The reauthorization established a target for ending overfishing in U.S.fisheries by 2010.

Now, if you’ve been keeping up with the news, you know that we haven’t solved the overfishing problem yet.  According to NMFS, there are currently 43 U.S. fisheries that are classified as overfished, and 39 that are experiencing overfishing.  One reason is that the 2006 M-S Act has never been fully implemented.  NMFS and the Fisheries Councils have often been unwilling to make the hard decisions necessary to properly manage fisheries and end overfishing.  In addition, budget allocations have been inadequate, and some fisheries lack the data necessary to determine appropriate catch limits. Others are missing the tools needed for catch monitoring and enforcement.

However, the Obama administration has indicated that it is serious about implementing the M-S Act, and is looking at innovative approaches for doing so.  Specifically, NOAA Administrator, Dr. Jane Lubchenco has championed Catch Shares as a great tool for maximizing both conservation and economic objectives.  In June, Monica Medina, Dr. Lubchenco’s senior advisor, stated, “Transitioning to Catch Shares is a priority for NOAA,” while announcing the formation of a Catch Shares Task Force to engage stakeholders in the creation of a catch shares policy.  Today, the the Task Force has released its recommendations, which are open to public comment.

Catch shares are effective.  Recent studies published in Science and Nature indicate that overfishing ends under well designed catch shares programs, while the fisheries themselves become at least four times more productive.  Many environmental and fishing organizations support catch shares, but there are others who oppose them.

From Ocean Champions’ perspective, catch shares are a great opportunity to finally implement the M-S Act, and to have a reasonable shot at ending overfishing.  The reasons are simple: the Obama administration supports catch shares, and is willing to invest the money necessary to implement them.  In addition, there is support on Capitol Hill and Members of Congress are important partners as they must appropriate the money for catch shares programs.  Even after decades of work by the ocean conservation community, too many fisheries are in trouble and the health of our oceans suffers.  We believe that the ocean community should support Dr. Lubchenco in her campaign to improve fisheries management and implement practical solutions to overfishing.  Therefore, Ocean Champions strongly supports expanding the use of well-designed catch share programs.

Date Posted: December 10, 2009 @ 10:04 am Comments Off

0 Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time. You must be logged in to the Circle of Champions to comment.