01/19/2012 - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is about to reach a historic achievement. By May, the agency will have set annual catch limits for every federally managed fish species, more than 500 in all. What’s more, this vital task has been accomplished in a genuinely bipartisan manner. The law requiring annual limits, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, was reauthorized in 2007 with support from President George W. Bush and has been carried out by the Obama administration.
This step also brings the country’s eight regional fishery management councils, which are established by the act and frame fishery plans for their waters, into accord with the federal agency. Each council is a coalition of state and federal representatives, fishermen and conservationists. The new limits were produced in partnership with the regional councils, which in the past have sometimes set higher catch limits than scientists at the federal agency deemed sustainable.
Not everyone supports the idea of annual catch limits or the way they are set. Some commercial fishermen and fishing coalitions complain that there simply isn’t enough data to judge the size of some fish stocks, much less define overfishing limits, made enforceable with fines or seasonal restrictions.
Read the full editorial A Milestone in Fisheries Management on The New York Times' Web site.