Sep 3 2014

In massive nod to success of West Coast industry and managers, Monterey Aquarium upgrades 21 species

Copyright © 2014 Seafoodnews.com – Posted with permission from SEAFOODNEWS.COM

SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton – Sept 3, 2014

In a massive nod to the success of US fishery managers, Monterey Bay Aquarium has upgraded its consumer guide on 21 west coast groundfish and rockfish species.

It now says all of these species – including sable fish, many species of rockfish sold as snapper in California, the various species of flatfish and other bottom trawl fish including Dover sole, petrale sole, starry flounder and sand dabs,  are rated either ‘best choice’ or ‘good alternative’.
“This is one of the great success stories about ecological and economic recovery of a commercially important fishery,” said Margaret Spring, vice president of conservation and science, and chief conservation officer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Although Monterey Bay calls this “the most dramatic turnaround to date’, it actually reflects business as usual for the US fishery management system.
The West Coast groundfish fisheries were declared an economic disaster early in 2000, when landings and fishing income plummeted.  Many species were listed as being overfished, and in some cases bycatch limits on types of rockfish came down to virtually single fish.
“The turnaround in such a short time is unprecedented,” said Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, director of the Seafood Watch program. “Fishermen, federal agencies and our environmental colleagues have put so much effort into groundfish recovery, and now we’re seeing the results of their work.”

In fact, the credit should go to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, NMFS, and the industry that worked with them, along with the rationalization program that allowed for effort reductions to make the fishery more economically viable.
Although the Aquarium as an NGO credits the changes to the Magnuson act in 2006, actually the seeds of the recovery were planted much earlier.  The West coast and Alaska fisheries operated with hard TAC’s long before they became mandatory across the entire U.S.

Like other US fisheries management success stories, the recovery of West Coast groundfish and rockfish species relies on two primary principles that have been fully embraced by the seafood industry:
*scientifically set quotas for the total allowable catch, and
*comprehensive bycatch management based on industry formed cooperatives and real time bycatch reporting.

A third factor, beyond anyone’s control, has been the favorable environmental conditions on the West Coast that have allowed for stock recovery once the other two actions were in place.

Unfortunately, where the environmental conditions move against a fishery – as is happening in New England cod, the best fisheries science in the world cannot speed up a recovery.  However, fish history is replete with many species suffering declines to near zero abundance, and then recovering sharply as conditions improve.   Haddock in New England is a prime example, with the biomass recovering to levels not seen seen in 40 years.

In future articles we will document more about how this recovery took place, and the hard work that went into it.  But like the rooster who thought he caused the sun to rise, it is important for buyers to recognize that the rooster – in this case the Aquarium’s Seafood Watch – is announcing an event that was brought about through scientific management  and industry cooperation and discipline.

That is why for the seafood industry, it is great to have the recognition, whether it be MSC or the Aquarium or other recommend lists, but just like the rooster and the sunrise, the accolades are for the work we’ve already done, they are not the cause of the success.


John Sackton, Editor And Publisher
SeafoodNews.com 1-781-861-1441
Email comments to jsackton@seafood.com

Copyright © 2014 Seafoodnews.com

Leave a Reply