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WASHINGTON, D.C. - A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) here concluded that the vast majority of U.S. fisheries are sustainably managed.
"The bottom line is that if a species of fish is in the store or on the menu, the stock is available to meet consumer demand," said NFI president John Connelly National Fisheries Institute (NFI). "It is our industry's goal to provide American families with healthy, delicious seafood now, while at the same time conserving plenty for future generations. The NOAA report highlights our efforts to achieve this balance."
The stocks assessed by NOAA in the report, "Status of Fisheries of the United States," account for 90 percent of U.S. harvests. Of stocks reviewed this year, more than three-quarters are healthy, meaning they are at or exceed optimal population levels. Fish stocks can fluctuate due to natural environmental factors as well as fishing practices. Species with a low population will undergo a rebuilding plan developed by the regional fishery management councils to restore the fish to sustainable levels.
"A fish stock categorized as 'overfished' doesn't mean it is on the verge of extinction," Connelly explained. "Just as there is an indicator in our cars to tell us how much gas remains in the tank, this report provides feedback about fish stocks. You want to replenish you gas supply before hitting 'E,' and fisheries managers want to put plans in place to replenish their livelihood before fish species are threatened."
The "overfished" determination factors in a safety margin that ensures the fish population will be able to recover.
Recent renewal of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the law that provides the basis for fisheries operations in U.S. federal waters, strengthened fisheries managers' abilities to help end overfishing and maintain sustainability of U.S. stocks. Provisions in MSA build on current best practices and improve the role that science plays in conserving fish and marine ecosystems. Using the latest technology and statistics, local management decisions can be made in real time, ensuring fishermen limit harvest and leave enough fish in the water so that the stocks are able to replenish.
Under NOAA Fisheries, the federal government oversees a system of eight regional fishery management councils covering fisheries from Maine to Hawaii. The decision-making authority rests with these regional councils, which are comprised of representatives of the various sectors involved in fisheries. The diversity of interests represented on the councils has helped ensure all parties have a voice in the regulatory process.