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Rebuilding Plans

When NOAA Fisheries determines that a stock is overfished, the relevant regional fishery management council (council) must implement a plan to rebuild it to the level that can support maximum sustainable yield (MSY). A typical rebuilding plan allows fishing to continue, but at a reduced level so that the stock will increase to the target level that supports MSY.

The graph below helps illustrate the concept of a rebuilding stock. A stock that is declared overfished—with a population size below the blue line—must have a rebuilding plan in place. The goal of that plan is to grow the stock to its target size—the orange line. The time between when the rebuilding plan goes in place and reaching the orange line is the stock’s rebuilding period. The time to achieve a rebuilt status will vary, depending on the individual stock.


Since 2000, a total of 34 stocks have been declared rebuilt. For example, Acadian redfish was determined to be overfished in 2001, and a rebuilding plan was put in place. The plan helped the stock rebuild much faster than expected due to successful control of fishing mortality and improved scientific estimation of the stock size. Read more about this rebuilding success in the 2012 Report to Congress.

South Atlantic black sea bass is another example of a rebuilding plan that worked. Management measures such as a constant catch plan, as well as changes in the recreational bag limit and fish size limits for both the commercial and recreational fisheries, led to an early recovery of the stock in 2013. Read more about this rebuilding success story on the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office website.

Not every stock rebuilds early like these two stocks. NOAA Fisheries and the councils monitor the progress of rebuilding stocks and make adjustments to plans if needed.

Rebuilding Trends

To track trends in rebuilding, NOAA Fisheries uses analyses from scientific assessments to plot the fishing mortality rate of a rebuilding stock over time. The stock's population biomass is also plotted to see how it corresponds with changes in fishing mortality. This trends analysis helps illustrate the progress of stocks that can take decades to rebuild. 

Explore the Latest Rebuilding Trends

Trends Analysis for Fish Stocks in Rebuilding Plans in 2013

Not Subject to Overfishing: Subject to Overfishing:
To see past trends analyses, visit the Trends Analysis Archive web page.