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Fish make comeback after catch limits imposed

Fish make comeback after catch limits imposed
WASHINGTON – U.S. fisheries are on a winning streak.

A new government report Wednesday shows the number of key stocks off America’s coasts have continued to bounce back since 2007, when Congress imposed catch limits for overfished species.The report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries division indicates the number of stocks classified as overfished or subject to overfishing has reached an all-time low, while the number considered rebuilt continues to climb.
Bluefin tuna in the western Atlantic, haddock in the Gulf of Maine and albacore in the North Atlantic were among the success stories in 2014, according to the NOAA report. Gag grouper made a remarkable comeback in two regions. It was taken off the list of overfished species in the South Atlantic and was moved from overfished to rebuilt in the Gulf of Mexico.“This report illustrates that the science-based management process under the Magnuson-Stevens Act is working to end overfishing and rebuild stocks,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act is the federal law governing the nation’s fisheries.
Of the 469 stocks under federal oversight in 46 management plans around the country:
— The number of stocks listed as subject to overfishing dropped from 28 in 2013 to 26 in 2014. Six were removed and four were added.
— The number of stocks listed as overfished dropped by two from 2013 to 2014.
— The number of stocks considered rebuilt grew by three, from 34 in 2013 to 37 last year.
Stocks subject to overfishing are being harvested faster than they can reproduce. Overfished stocks are those whose populations have declined too much, by federal standards. Rebuilt stocks were once overfished but have rebounded.
NOAA officials cautioned the de-listing of fish stocks does not mean catch limits will increase overnight. Quotas usually increase when the health of a fishery improves but might not take place until the following year’s fishing season.

The status report on fishing stocks comes as Congress prepares to reauthorize Magnuson-Stevens amid tensions from the commercial fishing industry, the recreational fishing industry an environmental groups over how best to maintain healthy fish populations.Gulf Coast states, for example, are trying to wrest management of the red snapper away from the federally created regional council now in charge because they’re unhappy with the short seasons the council has imposed on recreational anglers in recent years.
Transferring control from federal to state authorities requires congressional approval. It’s opposed by both the commercial industry and environmentalists who want to restrict catch limits. Despite a rebound, red snapper in the Gulf continues to be listed as an overfished stock.
Alan Risenhoover, director of NOAA’s Fisheries Office of Sustainable Fisheries, said the agency is talking to states to address some of those concerns.
“Our goal is to work with the states and the members of the Gulf Coast Council to manage that fishery in the best way possible,” he told reporters.
An analysis by the Government Accountability Office released last year found variations in how frequently fish stocks are assessed, based chiefly on geography. Counts in Alaska, for example, outnumber those in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.
Regional councils use fish counts to set recreational and commercial fishing rules in coastal waters. How they’re conducted and what they report are at center of an ongoing debate among commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen and environmental advocates on the best way to keep fish populations sustainable

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