Seafood coalition applauds work of federal commission
September 21, 2004
"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.
Strengthen the regional fishery management councils.
Increased role for science.
Use new technology and observer programs, such as the program long established in the North Pacific.
Include ecosystem considerations in federal fishery management.
Set aside marine protected areas.
Rationalize fishery management.
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
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