More species overfished

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More fish species have been added to the list of species classified as experiencing overfishing since last year than have been taken off, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) report on the status of U.S. marine fisheries for 2006 released yesterday.

The Marine Fish Conservation Network pointed to this report as an example of flawed management by the eight regional councils and called for the NMFS to develop strong, clear guidelines to implement a newly improved federal fisheries law.

“It’s time to change ‘business as usual’ when it comes to fishery management. That’s why Congress mandated that fishery managers follow scientific advice, set annual catch limits, and enforce those limits. Now NMFS must follow through with the rulemaking process to ensure these Congressional mandates are implemented,” said Thomas R. Kitsos, interim

executive director of the Network.

This year’s report finds that 47 fish populations are overfished (population size is too small) and 48 populations are experiencing overfishing (fishing at a rate that is too high to be sustainable).

With the recent passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act, Congress mandated that fishery managers set annual catch limits based on scientific data. Lawmakers also mandated that overfishing on overfished stocks must end within two years.

NMFS is currently drafting regulations for National Standard 1, or the “overfishing standard,” to implement these changes.

“For the last three decades, the councils have failed to do their job. NMFS has the opportunity to give the councils clear direction, through strong new rules to make them do what they should have been doing all along, end overfishing,” said Gerald Leape, vice president for marine conservation of the National Environmental Trust and co-chair of the

Network.

Editor’s note: To view a copy of the 2006 report on the status of U.S. fisheries, go to:

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/statusoffisheries/SOSmain.htm

The Marine Fish Conservation Network is a coalition of more than 190 national and regional environmental organizations, commercial and recreational fishing groups, aquariums, and marine science groups dedicated to achieving healthy oceans and productive fisheries.

For more information, please visit http://www.conservefish.org.