Sustainable Fisheries

New Safeguards Would Prevent Overfishing in Gulf of Mexico

Ocean Conservancy's Chris Dorsett answers five questions about NOAA's fisheries management plans for the Gulf of Mexico.

NOAA Fisheries recently announced the approval of Gulf of Mexico fishery management plans which, for the first time, include science-based catch limits and accountability measures to ensure that catch is kept within those limits for all federally managed fish species.

Ocean Conservancy's Chris Dorsett answers five questions about NOAA's new management plans.

What do these new plans mean for fish populations in the Gulf of Mexico?

The plans officially usher in a new era of science-based management that will benefit federally managed fish populations in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the past several years regional managers, scientists and fishing stakeholders have worked together to develop these plans aimed at preventing overfishing (taking fish from the ocean faster than they can reproduce) and ensuring fish populations are maintained at or returned to healthy levels.

Implementation of these plans will specifically set scientifically based catch levels and ensure that fishing catches match this level. This system has a proven track record of preventing overfishing and the declines in fish populations associated with overfishing. As a result we will see healthier and more abundant fish populations in the Gulf of Mexico.

What do they mean for the fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico?

For fishermen, implementation of these plans means better fishing. Healthy, well managed fisheries will provide stable and more sustainable catches into the future. The population decline associated with overfishing leads to an ocean with fewer, smaller fish that are harder for fishermen to find. In the end this means fewer fish being brought back to the docks for consumers and poor experiences for recreational anglers. By preventing overfishing we can avoid these types of problems in the future.

How will this affect those of us in the rest of the country who depend on the Gulf for seafood?

This is very good news for people who love Gulf seafood like red snapper and grouper. Well managed fish populations will result in a greater abundance and more stable supply of fish in seafood counters and at restaurants.

Are there proposed rules or legislation that would undermine this success?

Unfortunately, a number of bills have been introduced in this session of Congress that would negatively impact these new safeguards from going into place. These efforts range from dismantling the new system of safeguards to doing away with particular safeguards. NOAA’s new plans for the Gulf of Mexico are based on proven methods for sustainably managing our fisheries. We are working with partners, including fishermen to ensure these plans are allowed to work.

What other steps is Ocean Conservancy taking in the Gulf to help preserve a future for fish and fishermen?

Ocean Conservancy is also working on a number of other initiatives to ensure the Gulf of Mexico is healthy and able to support abundant fish populations and prosperous fisheries. We are engaged in efforts to secure a healthy future by ensuring the government and BP make good on their promises to address the impacts of the BP oil disaster and other sources of stress to the environment. These efforts will ensure the Gulf can provide continued and even improved ecosystem services such as fisheries, healthy beaches and flood protection essential to our well being.

We are also working with fishermen and government agencies to improve the sustainability of profitability of the fishing industry. For example, we are working with members of the shrimp industry and the government to deploy fishing gear on shrimp boats to save fishermen money and reduce environmental impacts. Finally, we are working with fishermen and the government to secure the best possible information from fisheries to aid regional managers in making the best possible management decisions.

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