NOAA 2001-020
Contact: Gordon Helm


The status of many U.S. marine fish stocks improved in 2000, although some stocks continue to have problems, according to NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service annual report to Congress, which was released today.

"This is our annual review of the conditions of U.S. fisheries," said Scott Gudes, acting NOAA administrator. "It shows us that while we've made some significant gains we must also continue to work with the regional fishery management councils to reduce the number of overfished stocks and comply more fully with strong conservation standards enacted in 1996."

According to NOAA officials, the year 2000 report is more comprehensive than past reports. It provides managers with additional information on stocks, differentiates between those stocks that are overfished and those where overfishing is occurring, and identifies the associated management actions to be taken.

"Overall, we have 75 rebuilding programs in place. We believe that the format of this report better reflects the rebuilding efforts that are going on regionally," said Gudes. "Additionally, NOAA is working with the regional councils on four more rebuilding plans, which are currently under development or under review."

The Year 2000 report included these findings (also see attached fact sheet):

  • There was no overfishing in 210 stocks in 2000, as compared to 159 stocks in 1999;
  • There was overfishing in 72 stocks in 2000, as compared to 77 stocks in 1999.
    145 stocks were determined not to be overfished in 2000, as compared to 122 stocks in 1999;
  • 92 stocks were found to be overfished in 2000, as compared to 64 stocks in 1999. The increase in overfished stocks resulted primarily from a technical change in the report, rather than a sudden decline in the biomass of stocks; and
  • Five species approached an overfished condition in 2000, the same number as in 1999.

The number of fish stocks whose status is either unknown or undefined remains
large, with more than 600 stocks listed. However, the 2000 report more clearly defines these stocks, listing them as either major stocks or minor stocks. Major stocks are those with total landings above 200,000 pounds annually. Approximately 83 percent of unknown or undefined stocks are categorized as minor, which means they have limited landings or low economic value.

The report and marine fish stock rebuilding efforts are required under amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act passed in 1996. The regional fishery management councils are required to amend each fishery management plan for compliance with revised conservation requirements.

The Magunson-Stevens Act requires scientists to both assess a stock's biomass and the amount of that biomass that is harvested each year – in relation to a specified overfishing definition – to determine whether the stock is overfished and whether overfishing is occurring.

NOAA Fisheries will now notify the regional councils that they may be required to submit measures to end overfishing and rebuild those stocks determined to be overfished. The councils will have a year to submit amendments or prepare new FMPs for review and approval.

Rebuilding programs must be as short as possible, but not exceed 10 years, except in cases where the biology of the stock, other environmental conditions, or management measures under an international agreement in which the United States participates dictate otherwise.

Additional information, including further comparison with the 1999 report, are in the accompanying fact sheet. The full report is available online at: