Restoring the Bounty of Our Oceans

Fish are essential to life in the world's oceans. They are the predators or prey of virtually every creature that swims with them or flies above the sea.

"If we commit now to end overfishing and to rebuild depleted fisheries, ocean ecosystems again will thrive and fish populations will provide a rich source of food, recreation, jobs and economic benefits for future generations."

-Lee Crockett, director of federal fisheries policy, Pew Environment Group

But overfishing fish faster than they can reproduce—weakens fish populations and ocean ecosystems, making them more vulnerable to such stressors as pollution, natural disturbances and climate change. Fish such as cod and red snapper, once abundant, have been subject to overfishing for decades and are at a fraction of their historic population sizes.

Fishery management ultimately means balancing the needs of today with those of the future. For too long, fishery managers have unnecessarily delayed important decisions or acted ineffectively. This has resulted in costly declines of valuable fish populations and required fishing restrictions to spur their recovery.

According to the most recent data from the National Marine Fisheries Service, 39 of America's most commercially and recreationally valuable fish populations are subject to overfishing and 43 are depleted, requiring that they be rebuilt.  And the situation may be much worse―a large number of fish populations have not been assessed, so their status is unknown.   

But America's ocean fish are resilient. At a time of profound economic uncertainty and environmental change, marine fish conservation is a wise investment.

“As someone who loves to fish, I want to ensure that my daughter and hopefully my grandkids will have the same and even better opportunities to enjoy fishing and fresh, local seafood,” said Lee Crockett, director of Pew's Federal Fisheries Policy. “If we commit now to end overfishing and rebuild depleted fish populations, ocean ecosystems again will thrive and fish populations will provide a rich source of food, recreation, jobs and economic benefits for future generations.”

For decades, U.S. fishery management has been driven by short-term economic interests instead of sound science. Federal managers are now taking decisive, often difficult, actions to finally end overfishing while applying innovative approaches to rebuild fish populations in regions around the country. 

The Federal Fisheries Policy continues to push for national policies and regulations that will protect both our oceans' wildlife and our fishermen's livelihoods.