The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the agency charged with managing our nation's fisheries, released a much-anticipated set of guidelines this morning which will direct federal fisheries managers in their work to rebuild and manage the nation's fisheries.
Below is a statement from Dr. Michael Hirshfield, senior vice president for North America and chief scientist at Oceana, an international marine conservation organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the world's oceans.
While Oceana is glad to see that NMFS will require annual catch limits on targeted fisheries, we are deeply dismayed to see the agency backing away from requiring fishery managers to account for those species that are not targeted, but still caught in commercial fisheries. Many of these fish play a critical role in healthy fisheries and oceans.
Fishery managers simply cannot rebuild fish populations and end overfishing without considering the broader ecosystem. To consider the ecosystem, the definition of "stocks in the fishery" should be as broad as possible and recognize all known interactions among different fish populations.
In order to move towards ecosystem management, the regional fishery management councils needed firm requirements to count everything that the fisheries catch - both targeted and non-targeted species. Instead, they simply got a new set of rules to manipulate.