Bottom Line

A Small ‘Catch’ in Recent Fisheries Coverage


(By Lee Crockett of the Pew Environment Group) Last week, the New York Times published a blog and an editorial recognizing the progress made in the management of U.S. ocean fisheries. Overall, more than 100 newspapers across the country have covered a promising new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that I discussed in my most recent blog post.

I want to follow up to make an important distinction between catch limits and catch shares, a difference that has been inadequately explained by NOAA and has resulted in some understandable confusion. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires properly set and enforced catch limits that prevent overfishing and ensure the rebuilding of depleted fish populations.

All of the rebuilt and recovering populations highlighted in the NOAA report are managed using science-based catch limits. Once these are set, fishery managers may elect to use catch shares, one of a variety of allocation methods, to divide up established quotas. Catch shares are successful as a conservation tool only if they are properly designed and coupled with catch limits. Some of the U.S. fish populations declared rebuilt in 2011 are managed using catch shares systems, but most are not.

In the very near future, the secretary of commerce is expected to approve the final fishery management plan amendment to establish enforceable science-based annual catch limits for every federally managed U.S. ocean fish population. This milestone is great news for those of us who love fish, fishing, and seafood.

If these catch limits are properly implemented, we can expect populations to continue to recover and thrive, providing growing economic and environmental benefits. Managers and stakeholders should give careful consideration to how these benefits are allocated, including through the use of catch share programs, but the bottom line is that sustainable fisheries depend on science-based catch limits.

Lee Crockett (The Pew Charitable Trusts) Lee Crockett leads The Pew Charitable Trusts efforts to establish policies to end overfishing and promote sustainable fisheries management throughout the United States.


6 Responses to A Small ‘Catch’ in Recent Fisheries Coverage

  • Captain Henry says:

    Catch Limits are supposed to be Science Based, but in 75% of US managed stocks, there is no science. Fishermen are calling for Science Mandates in the setting of ACL’s, but Pew and EDF are Opposing this legislative call. Thats the wrong side of conservation. Fishermen want their fishery laws to be science based and the fishery managers to be accountable for their management, but certain enviromental groups opposition to this calls into question the real agenda. EDF has promoted Catch Shares, and we all know this does not change harvest rates by one fish, does not rebuild fisheries, nor does in provide science based data, despite the investments of hundreds of millions of dollars. There have been many claims made about both Catch Limits and Catch Shares, that do not meet the fact and truth test, so this needs to be done. Catch Limits are supposed to be science based, however the “Best Avaliable Science” does not require it to be Current, Accurate, Complete, or science at all. Unfortionatly 75% of US fish stocks are managed with little more than guesswork. Thats simply unacceptable, and any group opposing that this be fixed and science reliable science be required needs to think about what side of conservation they are on. Catch Shares DO NOT Rebuild Fisheries, DO NOT Save Fish, DO NOT Change Harvest Rates, DO NOT Provide Science Based data, and DO NOT inprove access to all fishermen to their natureal resources. If you really want to know the health of the fisheries, ask someone that is on the water daily and really knows.

  • Henry Hauch says:

    While news of Rebuilt and Rebuilding stocks is a good thing, this has been the case for the last decade. Bag and size limits have allowed many important stocks to increase yearly over the past decade, Annual catch Limits could be a great tool…..IF, yes I said “IF” they were Science Based. The idea is being promoted as such, including in this Pew article, however, thats not entirely true. For ACL’s and TAC’s to be ‘Science Based’, Science must be in the process. this is not the case in most US managed fish stocks. Fishermen are calling for legislation that would hold fishery managers NOAA and it NMFS accountable for using reliable and current science based data to regulate and manage our fisheries with. This proposal is being Opposed however by notable enviromental groups, EDF and Pew included. Currently 75% of US stocks have ZERO science based data to manage with and of the 25% with ‘Some’, unfortionatly that some is often data up to and even older than a Decade outdated! Catch Limits ‘Could’ be a really good Science Based tool….If science was mandated in it. Its important to understand that the ‘Best Avaliable Science’ that is currently being used allows Old, Incomplete, flawed and even non-existant science to be used. Fishermen and Fisheries deserve much better! Catch Shares are a whole other animal, with little science involved. In fact Catch Share groups are the ones typically opposed to science mandates in fishery laws! Catch Shares DO NOT manage Fish! They manage Fishermen. As such they DO NOT change harvest rates, the same number of fish are caught, but many fishermen are forced out of jobs and business’s, so that the few remaining number can profit greater with increased harvest. Not very fair huh? US fish stocks are very healthy in most cases, but lack the basic fishery data, science, to allow the optimal yeild to be harvested. Its the very reliable science that is missing and opposed by ENGO’s thats needed to determine “Sustainable” harvest rates. Its also the very reliable science that is missing that is closing known healthy fisheries…..not due to a lack of fish, but a lack of science. So Yes, rebuilt and rebuilding fisheries is a good thing, but imagine how great it could be,IF we had the reliable and current science mandated in fishery laws and regulations!

  • Henry Hauch says:

    Bottom Line is that Sustainable Fisheries require Catch Limits that are truely “Science Based”, and do not simply rely on the “Best Avalible Science” which in the case of 75% of federally managed stocks has ZERO science. Science mandates are needed to hold federal fishery managers accountable, and this needs to include reliable data, complete data, and current data, unlike what is allowed and used now. I am dealing with a healthy fishery that is closed simply because the “Best Avalible Science” thats being used is nearly 12 years old, and was gathered before significant changes to bag and size limits as well as a 40% reduction in fishing pressure…..and tghis example is not an isolated one. Currently Fishermen are proposing legislation that would mandate this science based data, and sadly a few enviromental groups are opposing it. Its time to put the foolish Catch Share spending that is killing jobs and fisheries to rest, and time to force fishery managers to start using only reliable science in the management of OUR fisheries…..Thats not happening now under the current administration, but for the sake of our fisheries and fishermen change is needed, in policy and or administratio of our resource.

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