Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska - News, Features, Opinions...


Conservation Group Welcomes Final Oceans Report;
Seafood coalition applauds work of federal commission


September 21, 2004

Juneau, Alaska - The Marine Conservation Alliance (MCA) on Monday welcomed the release of the final report of the blue-ribbon U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP). The USCOP calls on the federal government to develop a comprehensive oceans policy and to place a higher priority on better understanding the oceans and climate, as well as highlighting the need to address environmental problems associated with dramatic increases in population and pollution along the nation's coastlines.

"The Commission has strengthened its position that sustainable fisheries management can be achieved through the existing system of regional management," Ron Clarke, MCA executive director, said. "Their final report emphasizes state involvement, and balanced, shared responsibility for marine resource issues - a position the MCA finds entirely consistent with the success of fisheries management here in the North Pacific." The MCA is a coalition of Alaska and Pacific Northwest fishermen and seafood processors, coastal communities, and Alaska Native groups.

Created by Congress in 2000, the USCOP issued a draft report in April, 2002. Governors of all 50 states and interested groups and citizens reviewed and commented on those preliminary findings. The USCOP considered those suggestions for their final report, which was formally presented to Congress today.

In its final report, the USCOP specifically cited the North Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council as an example of responsible management, saying the council has a history of setting harvest levels at or below the level recommended by its science advisors. The report notes that of the 82 groundfish stocks under its jurisdiction, none in the North Pacific was classified as overfished.

Over half of all fish landed annually in the U.S. comes from the abundant and sustainably managed fisheries off Alaska, such as wild salmon, halibut, crab, and groundfish, including walleye pollock and Pacific cod. The Commission noted progressive fishery management practices help sustain these fisheries - estimated at a worth of $2.3 billion annually - and provide tens of thousands of jobs in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.


USCOP Recommendations Supported by the Marine Conservation Alliance

Strengthen the regional fishery management councils.

The USCOP says authority should rest with regional councils and the management process should be fully transparent, involving scientists and stakeholders - as is true in the North Pacific.

Increased role for science.

The commission favors a stronger role for scientific advisory committees, which determine biological limits, and to prevent councils from exceeding those limits. This has been the practice in federal fisheries off Alaska's shores for more than 25 years.

Increase research.

The commission urges a doubling of federal research dollars, a move supported by the MCA. The industry has demonstrated its support by contributing more than $1 million annually to marine research programs sponsored by Alaska and Pacific Northwest universities.

Use new technology and observer programs, such as the program long established in the North Pacific.

Include ecosystem considerations in federal fishery management.

While scientists are still learning about the complexities of marine ecosystems, the USCOP wants to incorporate what is known into regional decisions such as setting safe harvest levels and protecting marine mammals, seabirds, and habitat -- as is done in the North Pacific.

Set aside marine protected areas.

The commission urges more marine reserves to protect the ocean environment -- steps already taken in the North Pacific.

Rationalize fishery management.

To address problems with "overcapitalization (i.e., too many fishing vessels)," the Commission recommends "dedicated access privileges" such as those already practiced in the North Pacific.

Fishery Management Highlights in the North Pacific

The regional North Pacific Fishery Management Council includes federal and state fisheries managers as well as a diverse group of stakeholders, who work cooperatively in setting conservative harvest limits. An independent committee of federal, state and university scientists reviews every fishing plan and uses a precautionary approach in recommending safe harvest levels. Fishery managers set catch limits at or below the harvest level recommended by its scientific advisory panel. Presently, overall groundfish catch levels are at two-thirds of the "acceptable biological catch" level recommended by scientists.

Trained federal fishery observers are assigned full time to the vessels that account for most of the catch in the groundfish fishery, ensuring catch levels are not exceeded and collecting vital data to improve fish stock assessments. The commercial fishing industry pays $10-12 million annually to fund what is believed the most comprehensive fishery observer program in the world.

Bycatch, or the discarding of fish that is not marketable or reserved by regulation for other fishermen, is strictly limited, and has been greatly reduced by improvements in gear and fishing practices.

Protective measures for seabirds and marine mammals have significantly reduced incidental take of these animals.

Some 130,000 square nautical miles of ocean under U.S. or state jurisdiction have been set aside as off limits to some or all fishing activity. These marine protected areas, which encompass an area larger than the state of California, are intended to minimize the impact of fishing on sensitive habitat or other marine life.

The "race for fish" that plagues many fisheries has been eliminated by the use of "dedicated access privileges" that allow fishermen and processors to operate on a more rational, environmentally friendly basis.


Source of News Release:

Marine Conservation Alliance
Web Site

MCA Supporters & Sponsors



E-mail your news & photos to

Post a Comment
        View Comments
Submit an Opinion - Letter

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska