STATEWIDE — The canary rockfish was the only endangered species off the California coast determined to no longer be overfished, according to an annual report on the status of fisheries published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last month.
Only one other fish species – the South Atlantic blueline tilefish – was no longer overfished, according to the NOAA report.
A fish stock makes the NOAA overfished list when its population size is too low, either due to fishing, environmental changes, or other causes. Comparatively a fish stock is added to NOAA’s overfishing list when its annual catch rate is too high.
“When a stock is determined to be overfished, a council must develop a rebuilding plan,” the NOAA report stated. “A typical rebuilding plan allows fishing to continue at a reduced level so that the stock can rebuild to its target level and can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) — the largest long-term average catch that can be taken from a stock under prevailing environmental and fishery conditions. This keeps fishermen and waterfronts working while rebuilding stocks.”
There are currently 44 stock rebuilding plans currently in effect, according to NOAA.
Canary rockfish was also one of two fish stocks to be considered completely rebuilt, according to NOAA. Also rebuilt was petrale sole, which is also native to the Pacific coast.
In all 39 fish stocks across the United States were rebuilt since 2000.
A few stocks were added to the overfishing list, including swordfish (Eastern Pacific stock), Chinook salmon (Pacific Northwest), yellow flounder (mid-Atlantic) and bigeye tuna (Atlantic).
Eight fish stocks were taken off the overfishing list, including three in the Gulf of Mexico (greater amberjack, gray triggerfish, hogfish), thorny skate and windowpane flounder (Gulf of Maine), winter skate (Southern New England), and three species near Puerto Rico (scups, porgies and wrasses).
NOAA Fisheries reportedly tracks 473 fish stocks and 46 fishery management plans. Assessments of each stock and management plan are conducted annually to determine the status of each species.
The U.S. began monitoring fish stocks after Congress passed the Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1976 and updated the legislation 20 years later.
“After World War II increased pressure and landings by foreign nations led to sharp declines in many fish stocks,” the NOAA report stated. “In response, Congress passed the Fishery Conservation and Management Act … [and] established a 200-mile fishery conservation zone ending the unmanaged, open access to fisheries off U.S. coasts by foreign fleets.”
An annual catch limit (ACL) requirement was enacted in 2007 to prevent overfishing.
“As of the end of 2015, catch was successfully kept at or below 89 percent of ACLs,” the NOAA report stated. “Management measures were implemented to address ACLs overages. Monitoring catch levels and keeping them in check annually helps reduce the chance of overfishing.”