Federal fishery management guidelines revised to help reduce overfishing

Updated plan would provide regulatory stability for commercial and recreational fishing, NOAA says.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Plans to manage federal marine fisheries off the coasts of California and other states have been updated to make it easier to prevent – and possibly end – overfishing.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced an updated set of federal fishery management guidelines to provide greater flexibility to address overfishing and allow for new scientific methods to be used to rebuild stocks.

NOAA’s updates, which were announced on Oct. 13, are part of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, or the MSA.

“U.S. efforts to rebuild fish stocks under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the National Standards have resulted in real ecological and economic benefits, and made the nation an international leader in fisheries management,” Eileen Sobeck, NOAA’s assistant administrator for fisheries, said in a released statement. “The revisions will continue our progress to prevent and end overfishing while providing an adaptive management system that better supports fishermen and fishing communities.”

The announced federal fishery management updates cover four technical areas and, according to NOAA, are based on advances in fisheries science.

New guidelines would specifically aim to provide regulatory stability for commercial and recreational fishing and allow businesses to “increase their resilience to stock changes over time.”

The updated guidelines would also allow for new scientific methods to guide “better informed rebuilding plans” and provide fishery managers with improved guidance whenever they are confronted with limited data about a stock.

Federal fishery managers could also look at the bigger picture of managing fish populations by incorporating an ecosystem-based fisheries management into their respective plans.

NOAA officials stated the recent updates would help the MSA achieve its mandate to prevent overfishing.

“These updates are based on lessons learned since the reauthorization of the Magnuson Act in 2007 and provide consistent technical guidance across the eight regional fishery management councils,” a statement issued by NOAA read.

NOAA’s guidelines are used to assist the federal agency’s eight regional fishery management councils and develop MSA-compliant management plans.

The announced updates, according to NOAA, resulted from more than 100,000 public comments and regular engagement with the fishing community and sustainability groups during the past 4 years.

At least 40 U.S. fishery stocks have been rebuilt and several others benefited from reduced overfishing during the past 15 years, according to NOAA.

Commercial and recreational saltwater fishing within the United States contributed about $214 billion in sales and supported 1.8 million jobs in 2014, according to recent data shared by NOAA.

(Photo credit: Adam Obaza and NOAA)

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