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US First Country in the World to Impose Catch-Limit for Fisheries

| Tuesday January 17th, 2012 | 0 Comments

In a rare show of bold bipartisanism, the United States recently made a move “to impose catch limits for every species it manages, from Alaskan pollock to Caribbean queen conch,” according to The Washington Post. This is the first law in the world that establishes a catch limit for all species. In the US, 528 species are fished commercially and each has distinct limits to prohibit overfishing and fishery collapse.

Though not normally associated with environmental legislation, George W. Bush reauthorized this bill giving NOAA the ability to set catch limits. The Washington Post states that:

Bush signed a reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which dates to the mid-1970s and governs all fishing in U.S. waters. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers joined environmental groups, some fishing interests and scientists to insert language in the law requiring each fishery to have annual catch limits in place by the end of 2011 to end overfishing.

Environmental groups are overjoyed by this move, which has gone largely unnoticed by anyone not in the fishing or environmental industry. However many commercial fishing companies are unhappy: by the end of 2012, all fisheries will fall under this federally regulated catch- limit.  The law even extends to recreational fishing of such species like the Wahoo. A strict measure like this is much needed, to prevent the collapse of fisheries and to ensure that the fishing industry becomes more sustainable.

Now the EU is considering imposing similar criteria on the catch-limits in their waters. Global catch-limits are in need of desperate control in order to save the world’s ailing oceans, and to ensure that commercial species are not fished to extinction. Several collapsed fisheries like the cod-fishery in Newfoundland are slowly showing recovery because fishing has eased off in these areas. By taking a preemptive action to set catch limits, the US government is showing that they are keen to prevent such future tragedies.

Many fisheries in the US are endangered by climate change – most notable are the oyster farmers of the Western Pacific and Chesapeake Bay. Several others are struggling to recover from the aftermath of the BP oil spill. Setting a catch-limit will hopefully mean a faster recovery of species across the board. This move will also affect seafood companies as it forces them to think about their sourcing policies as well as the need to ensure sustainably managed seafood. Other nations dependent on fishing should take note, and impose similar laws to reduce catch-limit to ensure healthy oceans for the future.

Now, if only something can be done about the Bluefin Tuna

Image Credit: NOAA, Wikimedia Commons.


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