Jan 29 2016

U.S. Fisheries Management Clears High Bar for Sustainability Based on New Assessment

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January 28, 2016 — The following was released by NOAA Fisheries:

Today, NOAA Fisheries announced the publication of a peer-reviewed self-assessment that shows the standards of the United States fishery management system under the Magnuson-Stevens Act more than meet the criteria of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s ecolabelling guidelines. These same guidelines serve as a basis for many consumer seafood certification and ranking schemes. The assessment demonstrates that the U.S. fisheries management system is particularly strong when considering responsiveness and science-based criteria. Beyond the biological and ecosystem criteria, the assessment also pointed out that the U.S. system incorporates the social and economic components of fisheries essential for effective long-term stewardship.

This assessment was authored by Dr. Michelle Walsh, a former NOAA Fisheries Knauss Fellow and current member of the Marine Science Faculty at Florida Keys Community College. Walsh evaluated the sustainability of how U.S. federal fisheries are managed using the FAO’s Guidelines for the Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries. These guidelines are a set of internationally recognized criteria used to evaluate the sustainability of fisheries around the world.

“While the performance of U.S. fisheries clearly illustrates that the U.S. management system is effective, my colleagues and I wanted to evaluate the U.S. approach to fisheries management as a whole against these international guidelines for ecolabelling seafood,” said Walsh.

Walsh found that the U.S. federal fisheries management system meets all of the FAO guidelines for sustainability. In particular, the assessment highlighted some key strengths of the U.S. system (represented by white/green dots on infographic) including:

  • Complying with national and international laws
  • Developing and abiding by documented management approaches with frameworks at national or regional levels
  • Incorporating uncertainty into stock reference points and catch limits while taking actions if those limits are exceeded
  • Taking into account the best scientific evidence in determining suitable conservation and management measures with the goal of long-term sustainability
  • Restoring stocks within reasonable timeframes

Evaluating Sustainability

“Sustainability” is about meeting the needs and wants of current generations without compromising those of future generations (WCED, 1987; United Nations, 1987). However, evaluating sustainability can become considerably more complex in the context of wild-caught fisheries in the dynamic ocean environment, where population trends and environmental conditions are often unclear or unknown.

Due to this complexity, many certification schemes assess sustainability on a fishery-by-fishery basis by evaluating discrete management approaches (such as gear type) and current stock status at a snapshot in time. This assessment, on the other hand, evaluates the U.S. management system as a whole against the FAO guidelines for ecolabels. It evaluates the capacity of the management system to respond to changes in stock levels and adapt to changing conditions via management measures that maintain sustainability over the long-term.

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