The icy waters of the North Pacific are among the most productive waters on the planet, a tremendous natural resource that supports sustainable commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries. Nurtured by a history of forward-thinking management, the fisheries of Alaska include among others, wild salmon surging out of the rivers and streams of the state’s vast interior; king crab caught by the adventurous fishermen depicted on the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch”; and immense schools of walleye pollock that compose America’s single largest fishery. It’s no wonder Alaskans are determined to pass on this cultural and economic legacy to future generations.
Pew is currently working with federal decision makers to help them develop a fishery ecosystem plan for the Bering Sea. First recommended by an advisory panel called for as part of the 1996 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, fishery ecosystem plans have not been legally required. They were envisioned as a mechanism for incorporating ecosystem-based science into the fisheries management structure to regulate fishing based on its impact to the ecosystem as a whole, rather than focusing on individual fish stocks in isolation.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has long been recognized as a leader in the use of science-based catch limits and precautionary management actions. The Council was also one of the first to embrace the concept of ecosystem-based management by developing a fishery ecosystem plan for the Aleutian Islands. With an increasing awareness of how fisheries impact – and are impacted by – the broader ecosystem in which they operate, new management tools are available to best inform the decisions made by the council. By developing a fishery ecosystem plan for the Bering Sea, the council can bring these tools to bear on the fisheries management process and help ensure a healthy ocean and sustainable fisheries for generations to come.