Why Rebuilding Fish Populations Benefits Everyone


NOTE: This is a guest post from Lee Crockett, Director of Federal Fisheries Policy at the Pew Environment Group

This post is part of Pew’s Overfishing 101 series. Previous posts can be viewed here.

All too often, leaders in Washington focus on the short-term impacts of potential policies to the detriment of long-term benefits to our environment and economy. Ongoing efforts in Congress to weaken the federal laws that govern marine resources are a great case in point.

Take Action: Ask your Member of Congress to support sustainable fishing and real scientific progress.

Currently, 39 of America’s most commercially and recreationally important ocean fish populations are subject to overfishing, and 43 have been depleted to unhealthy levels. And while most anglers, myself included, like to catch as many fish as we can, allowing business as usual to continue and delaying rebuilding efforts risk even greater damage to depleted fish populations and those who depend on them.

In other words, while reductions in catch limits certainly affect fishermen in the short-term, the long-term benefits they will enjoy from rebuilt populations far outweigh this temporary impact. Indeed, as studies have shown, healthy fish populations create jobs, support coastal economies, help repair damaged marine ecosystems and provide increased recreational opportunities for anglers like myself to bring home fish for my dinner table more often.

Making an investment in our future

Rebuilding currently depleted species would at least triple the net economic value of many U.S. fisheries (PDF). Estimates of the economic value include:

The formula for achieving these results is spelled out in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), and it is simple: first, do not allow more fish to be taken in a year than nature can replace. Second, rebuild depleted fish populations.

A proven recipe for success

Nearly 20 percent of America’s most commercially and recreationally important species are fished at unsustainable levels, but where the National Marine Fisheries Service has implemented fishery management plans using these two basic principles, there has been great success. I’ll give three examples.

We must capitalize on these successes and finish the job of rebuilding valuable U.S. fish populations. The examples above show that taking steps now to reduce fishing pressure on depleted populations will yield benefits for fishermen and the environment well into the future. And they are also a great example of how the MSA, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, is working.

Take Action: Ask your Member of Congress to support sustainable fishing and real scientific progress.

Read the rest of the Overfishing 101 series:

A Big Fish Story We Should Take Seriously (Video)

How Science Helps Managers End Overfishing and Rebuild Depleted Fish Populations

A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding U.S. Fishery Management

How Ocean Fish Populations are Managed in the U.S.

How Ocean Fish Populations are Managed in the U.S. (Part 2)

The Importance of Rebuilding Our Fish Populations Without Delay

Why Ending Overfishing Pays Off in the Long Run

Why Ending Overfishing is Good for Both Fish and Fishermen Alike


Chris Mccaffity
Chris Mccaffity5 years ago

Does any member of Care2 care that Pew "charitable" Trust and ED support the size limits and derby fisheries that force fishermen to discard tons of perfectly good seafood to slowly die and go to waste? There is a better way. I challenge any member of Care2, ED Pew, or anyone else to a public or private debate about how we can have a responsible harvest of healthy fisheries with very little waste. Does anyone care enough to have an open and honest debate?

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago

Well, that goes without saying, doesn't it?????

Chris Mccaffity
Chris Mccaffity5 years ago

We could stop feeding so much of our grains to farm animals if we properly managed our forrest so that more people could enjoy hunting and harvesting their own meat. We could stop pinning fish in confined areas while pumping them full of hormones and antibiotics if we properly managed our oceans and enhanced them with artificial reefs. We could feed everyone healthy sustainably harvested seafood and avoid the forced sterilization some suggest we need to reduce Earth's population.

Ryder, I do not believe ANYTHING that ED reports. They support torturing fish to death and wasting them as a conservation measure. The vegetarian diet you chose and promote pollutes our waters and causes countless animals to slowly die as they are forced out of their habitat to make way for more farm land. We need to responsibly harvest the oceans in a way that ensures they are healthy and feed the world. www.freefish7.com

Ernest R.
Ernest R5 years ago

Chris M People are omnivores, like bears. That means that, unlike leopards or cattle, they have a choice and some, like Massai, live on animal products and others, like Hindus, are vegetarian. Our oceans are being rapidly poisoned and depleted so they CANNOT “sustainably feed everyone. There are two ways to reduce the worlds UNSUSTAINABLE population. Nature’s way: disease or starvation. The human way: destructive wars, or forced reduction as in China. As your post demonstrates, we can't expect rational public action. I would limit children to one per person, two per couple. Those reaching that limit would be sterilized, tied tubes or vasectomy, humanely and free of charge. There would be no need for abortions except voluntarily in cases of rape. Some may consider this inhumane. Try starvation.

Ryder W.
Past Member 5 years ago

if a person can pay for a computer and internet, then they can certainly pay for food.
i never said only america exists and counts. i don't even like america much. but if you think that this article is about the whole world, you should re-read it.
i'm not here to discuss poverty, hunger, etc. that's a different topic. besides, my family is not rich. a vegetarian diet is MUCH less expensive than a meat-based diet. by far. people who think that vegetarian means "macaroni and cheese" just need to be educated. i don't see what's wrong with caring about the environment and informing people about how they could help make it better. knowledge shouldn't offend anyone. everyone is going to make their own choice anyway.

Paula Stiles
Paula Stiles5 years ago

And if you think everybody in the U.S. has ready access to food, let alone healthy food, and nobody ever goes hungry, you need to get out more. We don't have food banks in this country just for the political capital.

Paula Stiles
Paula Stiles5 years ago

First of all, yes, many people from developing countries have access to the Internet. You're just lucky no one's come on here yet from India, Nigeria, South Africa, China, or Indonesia (to name a few) to tell you off for acting as if they live in a stone age and don't have a voice.

Second, the article is definitely talking about fisheries worldwide (since it's actually pretty difficult to talk about national fisheries without also discussing international fisheries). The "Mid-Atlantic" is not within U.S. waters. Neither is most of the Pacific Ocean. Much of the reduction of our national fisheries has occurred due to foreign boats overfishing just outside of our 200-mile limit, or illegally within it, even since that limit was imposed.

Third, since you're insisting on some kind of artificial isolationism in which only America exists and counts, what about the fact that fresh produce and other features of the vegan and vegetarian diets are expensive and even inaccessible in many areas of the U.S.? You're asking people who are already struggling on limited budgets to switch to a costly and unfamiliar diet. When they don't, you accuse them of not caring about the planet. You know, there are far more constructive ways to reduce your carbon print (and your privilege guilt) than to expect people who think "vegetarian" means "macaroni and cheese" to make huge changes in their lives to bring them more into line with your own lifestyle.

And I hate to break this to you, but if

Ryder W.
Past Member 5 years ago

paula, i never said anything about people in the developing world. they have different issues and lifestyles. they also don't have computers/internet like we do, so talking about them being offended is irrelevant. this article is about the united states...it says that many times. my comments pertain to the developed "western" world, where food is easy to come by.

Paula Stiles
Paula Stiles5 years ago

Ryder, your comments only apply to the developed countries in the West. Are you aware of how offensive that sounds to the other two thirds of the world? There are many countries where women and children are fortunate to get any animal protein, which is most of the protein they have access to. When they do get it, it's either fish or eggs. In these countries, to refuse offered food is a grave discourtesy. I lived in a small village in Africa for two years and they were very enthusiastic about eating animals, even to the point of cruelty. But while I did my best to teach them better and kinder animal husbandry (that being my job), it would never have occurred to me to tell people who already had so little that they should turn vegetarian. They had enough problems with malnutrition, already.

Americans are a minority in the world and, regardless of how large a percentage of resources we take per capita, we do not dictate how the world eats, no matter how much we think we do. Your comments sound embarrassingly out of touch and promote the image already existing in many parts of the world that Americans are arrogant and overbearing, and expect everyone else to live like they do, even if that lifestyle is too expensive and high-maintenance for a poor person with access to relatively few resources.

Ryder W.
Past Member 5 years ago

eating animals causes suffering -- not just to the animals, but to us (humans) and our environment.
vegetarian/vegan lifestyles are by no means "extreme"...it's a simple and logical way to live. and health-wise, most people actually would benefit greatly from removing animal products from their diet. there's tons of irrefutable research on that topic.

aquaculture is not yet environmentally sound enough to promote. sure, it may be "environmentally LESS destructive" choice, but saying no to fish all together would completely end the environmental destruction caused by fish farming.