According to a feature article posted by NOAA Fisheries on its Northwest Fisheries Science Center web site, only two of the 173 West Coast fish stocks -- Pacific bigeye tuna and Pacific bluefin tuna -- are now subject to overfishing, meaning that 171 stocks currently are harvested at a sustainable rate.
However, five stocks are classified as overfished, which means that the population’s abundance is too low, or below a prescribed threshold, according to NOAA Fisheries 15th Annual Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries. The report was submitted in May.
Those stocks include Canary rockfish, cowcod, Pacific ocean perch, yelloweye rockfish, and chinook salmon from the California Central Valley. Though these stocks are overfished, rebuilding plans are in place to restore the populations to healthy levels.
Two stocks, Queets River coho salmon and petrale sole, identified as overfished in 2010, were removed from the list in 2011 because the populations are rebounding. In fact, Queets River coho salmon, as well as Western Strait of Juan de Fuca coho salmon, widow rockfish, and Klamath River chinook salmon, are fully rebuilt.
The report documents the journey toward rebuilding stocks to healthy, sustainable levels. It provides a “snap-shot” of where our fisheries stood at the end of 2011. Of the 214 stocks evaluated, 173 were on the West Coast and are managed jointly by NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council. The dynamic between science and management ensures our fisheries are sustainable.
West Coast fisheries, whether for commercial sale or recreation, play a major role in the economy, the article says. In 2010, the value of fish stocks commercially landed under federal fishery management plans (Pacific groundfish, salmon, and coastal pelagic species) was $242 million. In 2010, 704,000 marine recreational anglers each took an average of 2.8 fishing trips off the West Coast-fishing for species such as salmon, black rockfish, albacore tuna, lingcod, and Pacific halibut.
Fish processors, restaurants, grocery stores, sellers of fishing tackle, fuel, and ice, and many other businesses are involved in the fishing and seafood supply chain, generating jobs and income. In 2009, West Coast Federal fisheries, along with non-Federal fisheries such as those for shrimp, oysters, and crab, generated approximately $2 billion in income and 60,000 jobs on the West Coast.
A number of factors contribute to the health of our fisheries and to the abundance of particular fish stocks in addition to fisheries management, the article says. These factors include human-induced habitat degradation and environmental change, such as climate change, ocean acidification, and land-based pollution.
They also include factors such as predation, disease, and natural population cycles. Fisheries management requires a robust understanding of what science tells us about the status of each stock and about the various human and environmental factors that may influence a stock’s health.
NOAA Fisheries works with the Pacific Fishery Management Council to balance all of these considerations and ensure that we all benefit from the bounty of this resource.
To view the full Status of the Stocks 2011 Report to Congress, visit: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2012/05/docs/status_of_stocks_2011_report.pdf