NOAA 2002-098
Contact: Susan Buchanan
NOAA News Releases 2002
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Thanks to effective fisheries management by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, ten of the 12 federally managed species from North Carolina to New York are fully rebuilt or are steadily growing under strict fishery management programs that have reversed decades of overfishing. Plans to rebuild the remaining two species recently have been developed and will be implemented this year, officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service announced. NOAA is an agency of the Commerce Department.

"I couldn't be more pleased today with the accomplishments of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which has made extraordinary efforts to be trustworthy stewards of the marine resources under its jurisdiction," said Dr. Bill Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries. "Our joint goal is to rebuild overfished stocks and manage fisheries at a sustainable level as we protect critical fish habitats. This council has proven its dedication in making the tough management choices necessary to accomplish its mission."

The Mid-Atlantic council is one of eight regional bodies established by Congress in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The councils, in partnership with the states and the federal government, manage marine fish stocks in their respective geographical areas of responsibility. These rebuilding successes are a product of joint management and teamwork by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council working with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and with public constituents and fishermen. In 2000, marine fisheries in the Mid-Atlantic were valued at about $100 million to commercial fishermen.

Last week, scientists also announced that Mid-Atlantic scup, a species worth approximately $1.5 million to the region's commercial fishermen, has rebounded this year to record high numbers and is no longer overfished or depleted. In addition, projections show that summer flounder, worth approximately $12.6 million to commercial fishermen, will no longer be overfished by the end of the year.

The council and commission have managed scup since 1996 and summer flounder since 1988. This is an outstanding example of how federal fisheries management is moving in the right direction to ensure a bountiful, healthy ocean and sustained economic opportunities for America's coastal towns.

"The councils are diligently turning the picture of America's fisheries from a once grim view of depletion and economic hardship to an encouraging vision of a plentiful ocean for future generations," Hogarth said. "We have a lot of ground to cover with our rebuilding plans but we are moving in the right direction. Taking two Mid-Atlantic species off the overfished species list this year means that two additional species are headed toward full recovery."

Hogarth also acknowledged the sacrifices fishermen are making in reduced landings to guarantee the success of rebuilding programs. "These sacrifices will exponentially increase the value of overfished species once they become fully rebuilt," he said. "We are proud of our partnerships with America's fishermen, who provide us with information critical to successful management, and we applaud them for their many contributions to the fishery management process."

Regional councils develop and submit fishery management plans to NOAA Fisheries for review and approval by the Secretary of Commerce. Council members are made up of citizens who are expert in regional fisheries issues, including commercial and recreational fishermen, environmental advocates, seafood dealers and restaurateurs, and scientists. Councils develop management actions after considering comment from all segments of the public along with input from advisory and scientific panels. Fishery management plans balance commercial and recreational fishing opportunities with conservation measures for the maximum benefit to the nation.

Of the nation's 959 federally managed species, commercial fisheries target about 304 stocks, 81 of which are classified as overfished. Of these, 67 are steadily rebuilding under restrictive programs that allow for limited, monitored fishing, and the regional councils currently are developing nine additional programs. A common concern of environmental advocates is the long-term rebuilding timeframes for many species. Although recovery may take time for certain species with slow growth and low reproductive potential, NOAA Fisheries, the eight regional councils and the commission are celebrating more fishery management successes each year.

NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat.

To learn more about NOAA Fisheries, please visit