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A Message from Sam Rauch, Head of NOAA Fisheries

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Sam Rauch presenting in Boston.

For additional information and resources on the 2011 Status of Stocks report, visit here

Overfishing is when the rate of removal from a stock is too high. A priority for the United States is ending overfishing so that all stocks can rebuild and be sustained at rebuilt levels.

Overfished is when the population is too low, or below a prescribed threshold. A population can be overfished but be managed under a rebuilding plan that over time returns the population to health.

Rebuilt is when a stock has increased to its target population level after falling below the critical overfished level.


Good News on the Status of Stocks
May 2012

I travel a lot for my job and wherever I go people ask me, “How do you know we’re ending overfishing?” Or, they ask, “How do you know stocks are rebuilding?” I tell them we know because there’s a science to it. I also tell them that we assess fish stocks to determine if they are healthy and sustainable every year. And, we report our progress to Congress in the annual Status of Stocks report.

The good news is our 2011 Status of Stocks report shows we’re making good progress at ending overfishing and rebuilding fish populations. NOAA Fisheries reviewed the status of 214 fish stocks this year and overall results show a decrease in both overfished stocks and stocks experiencing overfishing. In fact, it was record-breaking year with a total of six fish stocks declared rebuilt – the most stocks declared rebuilt in a single year.   The bottom line is that we have positive results on both coasts including Bering Sea snow crab in Alaska, widow rockfish on the West Coast, and summer flounder in the Atlantic.

These results underscore the strength of our science-based management process and, to answer the questions above, demonstrate we are actively turning the corner on ending overfishing and rebuilding U.S. fisheries.  Now that we have annual catch limits and accountability measures in place, we can make even more progress.  The 2011 results also reflect the tremendous efforts and commitment of fishermen, fishing communities, and the regional fishery management councils to make difficult decisions and absorb the costs of conservation and investment now to ensure the long-term economic and biological sustainability of the resource.

Fisheries management is a big and complex job that relies on sound science. And, while we manage 537 stocks nationwide, we don’t yet know the status of all those stocks. But, by doing assessments and publishing the results annually, we illustrate how we are working to assess stocks that are rebuilding and to verify their status in a timely manner. As envisioned by the 2007 amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, we also show that U.S. fisheries management is an accountable and adaptable process that both prevents overfishing from occurring and quickly responds if it does occur.

NOAA Fisheries recognizes that fishermen, fishing communities, and seafood businesses are investing in the solutions that are helping end overfishing and rebuild our nation’s fish populations. These investments will continue to pay off and provide more economic opportunity and economic stability for industry in the future.

As we celebrate our progress and this piece of good news, we will work with the councils, commissions, and stakeholders to build on the 35 years of evolution and innovation in fisheries management in the U.S.– one that has become a global model of success. NOAA Fisheries appreciates the support of Congress, our state partners, and stakeholders as we travel this ongoing road of stewardship together.

Samuel D. Rauch III
Acting Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries

Get more information on 2011 Status of Stocks Report here