Increase the long-term economic
and social benefits to the nation from living marine resources
by eliminating overfishing and rebuilding overfished stocks important
to commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries.
Waters under U.S. jurisdiction
contain more than one-fifth of the world's most productive marine
areas. However, fisheries resources in these waters, the ecosystems
that support them, and the communities that depend on them are
under increasing pressure to meet a growing demand from consumers,
who spend about $46 billion a year on fish products.
In the past, U.S. government
subsidies fostered increases in capacity in the fisheries sector,
and until recently, many fisheries in the U.S. had unrestricted
access. As a result, too many boats were chasing too few fish.
Several other factors have exacerbated the problems facing domestic
fisheries. Bycatch (the incidental capture of nontarget species)
has significantly harmed many species of fish and endangered
sea turtles, marine mammals, and birds. In addition, much of
the bycatch is discarded because it is less valuable than the
target species.Other human stressors, such as coastal development,
pollution, anchoring on coral reefs, and some types of fishing
gear, have substantially degraded habitat essential for fish
With strong management in recent
years, such as the federal implementation of programs controlling
access to fisheries, many stocks are beginning to recover. Several
fisheries have also begun to address the bycatch issue by requiring
turtle- and fish- excluder devices, and the regional Fishery
Management Councils are involving broader communities in the
management of the nation's fisheries. But even with current efforts,
33% of federally managed fish stocks are overfished, and it will
take ten years or more before some fisheries fully recover and
become commercially viable and sustainable. New fisheries management
practices will require a more broad-based ecosystem approach.
- Fishing overcapacity continues
to exist in many U.S. fisheries.
- Bycatch of nontarget species,
although declining, continues to threaten marine biodiversity
and reduce economic opportunities in other fisheries.
- Current harvest restrictions
may have to be even more stringent to eliminate overfishing and
rebuild stocks to achieve sustainable economic benefits.
- The status of 65% of federal
marine fisheries stocks is unknown, hampering our ability to
manage fisheries sustainably.
- There are major data gaps
on bycatch levels in many fisheries and on the impacts of fishing
activities on most essential fish habitats.
- The short-term effects of
much-needed marine conservation measures may severely strain
the economies of local communities.
- Consumers are unaware of how
their consumption drives fishing pressure, and are unable to
distinguish between sustainably and nonsustainably harvested
- Evaluate and apply creative
measures to reduce fishing overcapacity, including leveraged
buyouts and rights-based fishing.
- Create short- and long- term
opportunities to decrease the economic burden on fishing communities
by redirecting fishing effort into supporting activities, such
as fishery research.
- Provide fisheries managers
with the best available technology to survey and properly assess
fish stock levels, enabling them to better set appropriate fishing
- Create incentives to reduce
adverse effects on nontarget species and marine habitat.
- Develop technologies to improve
fisheries science and further reduce bycatch and waste.
- Explore the scientific and
conservation benefits of marine harvest refugia and other protected
- Support the development of
an ecolabelling system that provides consumers with additional
information so that they have the option of purchasing sustainably
- Seek Congressional support
for the Clinton/Gore Lands Legacy Initiative, which calls for
significant funding to help restore U.S. fisheries.
For more information
Georges Bank , one of the richest
fishing grounds in the world, was overfished first by foreign
fleets, then by the build-up of the U.S. domestic fleet. Today,
as a result of strong management actions, haddock, cod, and flounder
populations and the fishing yields from these stocks are once
again increasing. The scallop fishery has recently reopened in
a portion of Georges Bank under a pilot project that supports
the fishing industry and pro- motes sustainable harvesting.