New Government Data Finds Status of U.S. Fisheries Remains Bleak
More than Half of All Fish Stocks Are Overfished or Have an Unknown Status
Press Release Date: May 12, 2022
Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its updated “Status of the Stocks” report, which provides an annual summary of how U.S. fisheries are faring, including those that are below healthy levels (i.e., overfished), as well as those that are being caught at rates that are too high (i.e., subject to overfishing). This year’s report finds less than half of U.S. fish stocks have a known healthy status, and 51 fish stocks are overfished, a near-record high that represents 20% of fish populations evaluated. The report also shows that fisheries managers do not have enough information to effectively manage 45% of U.S. fish populations. Oceana says the report highlights NOAA’s failure to rebuild troubled U.S. fisheries like the historic New England groundfish fishery.
“It’s disappointing to — once again — see the lack of progress to rebuild our nation’s struggling fisheries,” said Gib Brogan, fisheries campaign director at Oceana. “Healthy fisheries — when fish are caught at levels that allow the populations to recover and produce consistent catches — are critical to sustaining our nation, especially coastal communities and economies. We need government agencies to insist on success and accountability. Delaying needed action harms not just our oceans, but also the communities that depend on these fisheries. Even in a changing ocean, robust fisheries can be balanced with recovery, but NOAA must lead the way. Simply put, NOAA is failing to uphold its responsibility to keep America’s fisheries thriving, and that needs to change.”
Some local and regional examples of struggling fisheries from this year’s report include:
- Gag grouper: A popular recreational and commercial species in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico was added to the overfished and overfishing list. Gag grouper was heralded as a success story only a few years ago but has since declined.
- Atlantic cod: This historic species from the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank continues to struggle from ineffective management. Earlier this month, NOAA took action to improve catch monitoring to count and account for cod catches and this is expected to help this species recover.
- Atlantic herring: Herring is an important prey species for a wide range of ocean wildlife in New England, including whales, sea birds, and predatory fish. Rebuilding this species is important for healthy oceans.
Oceana is urgently calling on Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and NOAA to take immediate action to improve fisheries management across the country to protect American fishermen and create resilient oceans and coastal economies.
Click here to view this year’s “Status of Stocks” report.