NOAA 2006-061A
Contact: Susan Buchanan
NOAA News Releases 2006
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Steps Taken for Stocks that Were Determined to be Overfished or Subject to Overfishing in 2005

Nationwide, 54 fish stocks and complexes are overfished and 45 stocks and complexes are subject to overfishing. NOAA Fisheries Service notifies the regional fishery management councils when stock assessments show species to be overfished or subject to overfishing, and new management action is required. Rebuilding plans are in place for the species that were designated as ‘overfished’ prior to 2005, and the councils already have taken action to address the new overfished and overfishing determinations of 2005, as described below. Recent council actions to end overfishing and rebuild some additional stocks are described as well.

  • New England Council – New Determinations for 2005

witch flounder and plaice – overfishing ended;
barndoor skate – no longer overfished

Overfishing: Georges Bank yellowtail flounder and winter flounder
Overfished: Georges Bank Yellowtail flounder

Council Action: Georges Bank Yellowtail Flounder
In 2005, overfishing was found to be occurring for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder, and the stock was deemed to be overfished even though the catch of this species was substantially below target harvest levels for the 2005-2006 fishing year and landings consistently have been below target levels in previous years.

The New England Council responded by developing Framework 42 to the Northeast Multispecies fishery management plan, which would cut the 2006 total allowable catch (TAC) of Georges Bank yellowtail for U.S. fishermen by more than one-half and close that fishery once the TAC is reached. The recovery program is designed to rebuild this stock by 2014 (two years earlier and at a higher level of certainty than required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act). Bycatch TACs for the catch of yellowtail flounder in other fisheries also are reduced, and yellowtail would no longer be targeted as part of special access programs. The Council submitted Framework 42 to NOAA in April 2006; a proposed rule to implement these measures is under review. In the meantime, an emergency rule took effect in May 2006 to reduce fishing effort.

Council Action: Georges Bank Winter Flounder
Framework 42 would reduce fishing mortality for Georges Bank winter flounder to target levels by imposing a 7,500-pound landing limit and reducing fishing time for the vessels fishing on Georges Bank by about eight percent. The trip limit would be adjusted during the year to achieve target catch levels, and winter flounder would no longer be targeted as part of special access programs. Landings of Georges Bank winter flounder for the 2005-2006 fishing year were kept substantially below target levels by restricting fishing time.

  • Pacific Council – New Determinations for 2005

Progress: lingcod – fully rebuilt; lingcod, black rockfish (North) and shortspine thornyhead – overfishing ended; widow rockfish – no longer overfished

Overfishing: none
Overfished: Pacific Ocean perch

Council Action: Pacific Ocean Perch
The council banned directed fishing for Pacific Ocean perch after the species was declared overfished in 1999. Although the stock increased to above the overfished level in 2004, it remains close to the threshold, and based on a 2005 assessment it is again considered overfished. However, a new assessment shows an upward trend in the population level. This increase can be attributed, in part, to the coast-wide depth-based closed areas that the council has implemented since 2002 in order to help fishermen target healthy species and avoid the incidental catch of overfished species. The council will continue to implement new management measures in order to rebuild Pacific Ocean perch and its six other species under rebuilding plans until each reaches a healthy stock level.

  • Mid-Atlantic Council – New Determinations for 2005

golden tilefish – overfishing ended;
bluefish and golden tilefish – no longer overfished

Overfishing: none
Overfished: scup

Council Action: Scup
Scup is part of a multispecies complex that also includes summer flounder and black sea bass. To end overfishing of both scup and summer flounder and to rebuild scup, the council is developing Amendment 14 to the management plan for these species. The council is scheduled to complete a draft in time for public hearings in September and October 2006, with a target implementation date of March 2007.

  • Western Pacific Council – New Determinations for 2005

Overfishing: Central Western Pacific Yellowfin Tuna

Council Action: Central Western Pacific Yellowfin Tuna
When the council was notified of overfishing on Central Western Pacific yellowfin tuna last year, it added the species to Amendment 14 to the pelagics fishery management plan, which was already under development to end overfishing for bigeye tuna. Both species are part of the same international fisheries, and the United States accounts for less than five percent of yellowfin harvests. The council has voted to recommend that the international community adopt a 20 percent reduction in fishing mortality for both species in the Western and Central Pacific and a 30 percent reduction in mortality of bigeye in the Eastern Pacific. The council is meeting in June 2006 to take final action on how these reductions should be achieved. To be successful at ending overfishing, the international community in the Pacific will have to adopt these recommendations since the United States accounts for a fraction of the fishing mortality.

  • Gulf of Mexico Council – New Determinations for 2005

Overfishing: none
Overfished: none

Though there were no new overfished or overfishing determinations for the Gulf region in 2005, four species are still undergoing overfishing. Rebuilding plans have been established for greater amberjack, red grouper, red snapper and vermilion snapper. Recent management measures include reductions to the greater amberjack recreational catch limit, commercial seasonal closures for both greater amberjack and red snapper, and a recreational seasonal closure for red snapper. The rebuilding plans propose to end overfishing for red grouper by 2006, red snapper by 2009 or 2010, and vermilion snapper by 2007.

Additional regulatory actions have been implemented since the rebuilding plans were established for vermilion snapper and red grouper. The recreational catch limits were reduced for vermilion snapper and red grouper, the vermillion snapper minimum size was increased for both recreational and commercial fisheries, trip limits and quota closures were implemented for all groupers, and the council adopted seasonal commercial closures for red grouper (including black and gag grouper) and vermilion snapper.

Assessments were completed for red snapper in 2005, greater amberjack and vermilion snapper in 2006, and an assessment for red grouper will be completed in 2006/2007. The council is currently considering additional red snapper regulatory actions, such as commercial individual fishing quotas, and reductions in total allowable catch and bycatch, and will address any necessary actions on greater amberjack and red grouper after the new assessments next year.

  • North Pacific Council – New Determinations for 2005

Progress: Snow crab and Eastern Bering Sea tanner crab – no longer overfished

Overfishing: none
Overfished: none

The North Pacific Council has no stocks subject to overfishing, and only two stocks that are overfished (the Pribilof and St. Matthew Island stocks of blue king crab), both of which have been closed to harvest for many years.

  • South Atlantic Council – New Determinations for 2005

Overfishing: none
Overfished: none

Although there were no new overfished or overfishing determinations in the South Atlantic in 2005, the region still has 11 species listed as subject to overfishing, all part of the multi-species snapper grouper complex. A rebuilding plan has been in place for many years. Catch limits for speckled hind and Warsaw grouper, also reported as subject to overfishing, have been set at one fish with no sale allowed for the past 13 years. No harvest of goliath and Nassau grouper has been allowed since 1990. Another species, red drum, has been closed to all harvest since 1985.

The Council has taken additional action to stop overfishing for vermillion snapper, snowy grouper, tilefish and black sea bass. Once implemented, Amendment 13C to the Snapper Grouper fishery management plan will reduce commercial quotas and recreational catch limits and increase minimum sizes. The amendment has been submitted to NOAA and is open for public comment. The council now plans to focus its attention on developing measures to end overfishing for the remaining stocks: red snapper, red grouper, gag and black grouper.

  • Caribbean Council – New Determinations for 2005

Overfishing: Grouper Unit 1, Grouper Unit 4, Parrotfishes, and Snapper Unit 1
Overfished: Grouper Unit 4

The Caribbean Fishery Management Council developed Amendment 3 to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan to address overfishing and to rebuild overfished stocks. This amendment includes closed seasons and closed areas that provide protection during peak spawning periods. The amendment also closed the queen conch fishery throughout the U.S. exclusive economic zone in the Caribbean except a small area off St. Croix; this stock continued to be listed as overfished and subject to overfishing in 2005. Amendment 3 was implemented through a final rule in November 2005. The council is currently working with fishing communities to develop new management actions, which may include limited entry and/or dedicated access programs.

  • Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (Not Council Managed) – New Determinations for 2005

Overfishing: None
Overfished: None

For many highly migratory species (HMS), U.S. fisheries account for a small fraction of the Atlantic-wide catch. International rebuilding programs are already in place for blue marlin, white marlin and bluefin tuna. An international rebuilding program for North Atlantic swordfish has ended overfishing and rebuilt the stock to 94 percent of its target level. For large coastal sharks, NOAA implemented a rebuilding plan in 2003 that reduced quotas and established a time/area closure to protect juvenile sandbar and dusky sharks. The August 2005 draft consolidation of the HMS Fishery Management Plan included proposals to seek an international rebuilding program for northern albacore and to explore options available to end overfishing on finetooth sharks. It also proposed new conservation measures, such as special hook and bait combinations and limiting white marlin fisheries to catch-and-release only, to support marlin rebuilding. Public comment on these proposals ended in March and a final rule is expected later in 2006.