FED Report: Worrisome Overfishing Continues

July 4, 2007

More fish in US federal marine waters have become overfished, according to NOAA's annual assessment for 2006, released June 22, 2007. Press release. Current and past reports. Contact: Susan Buchanan, 301-713-2370.

On a population basis, fish species and multi-species complexes that were fished unsustainably rose from 45 in 2005 to 48 in 2006 (20% of the 242 total species and complexes assessed on this basis, with 6 added to the list and 3 dropped).

From a biomass perspective, a similar trend occurred, with the number of unsustainably fished species and complexes rising from 43 in 2005 to 47 in 2006 (25% of 187 species and complexes assessed on this basis, with 6 added to the list and 2 dropped).

Additional species and complexes are expected to be categorized as overfished, based on numbers or biomass, within two years if current patterns continue. The status of several hundred other fish species or complexes is either unknown, undefined, or not applicable.

The widespread depletion of fish has drawn the attention of federal officials and many others, and efforts are underway to slow this trend, with a goal of ending overfishing by 2010. After an extensive set of public hearings, NOAA is scheduled in late July or early August 2007 to release a set of proposals to end overfishing. It should be available here. The proposals will be open for public comment, and comments already received are expected to be posted with the release of the proposals.

The overfishing dilemma offers a range of big-picture stories on ecosystems, species, food supplies, and related topics. Or you can bring it down to the immediate impacts at the consumer level, as Martin Fackler did in his New York Times article that ran June 25, 2007, and is still available free in the San Francisco Chronicle.