Fish filled the seas 500 million years ago in a burst of new life on Earth. Ever since, they have kept the ocean ecosystem delicately balanced, fed people, supported a critical industry and brought recreation to millions who enjoy fishing, diving and boating.
Yet today, fish are disappearing at an alarming rate.
The South Atlantic coastal region boasts a complex ecosystem of estuaries, coral gardens, deepwater canyons and shallow tropical waters. These environmental jewels draw divers, anglers and tourists from around the world who expect healthy waters and robust fish populations. Chronic overfishing has put all of this at risk. Many of this region's first live long—some for decades—but they are snapped up before reaching their best spawning years. Like an orchard harvested before fruit is ripened, overfishing is destroying what takes years to nurture.
Federal fishery managers are working to end and prevent harm from overfishing—taking fish faster than they can reproduce. Managers develop and oversee plans to help rebuild fish populations that have plummeted to dangerously low levels. And they set rules, including scientifically sound limits on the amount of fish that can be caught annually, to ensure fish populations remain healthy.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is comprised of recreational and commercial fishermen, state fishery managers and other experts. Together with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the council manages 98 species of fish, corals and crustaceans in coastal waters from 3 to 200 miles off North Carolina, Georgia and Florida's east coast.
The council has science advisers who conduct in-depth analysis of fish populations, and members use that data plus information gathered from recreational, charter and commercial fishermen to determine appropriate catch limits. In addition, the council recieves input and recommendations from other state and federal agences, researchers, the public and members of advisory committees and panels composed of fishermen and other stakeholders.
Pew is leading efforts to work with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service to establish science-based annual catch limits by 2011 for all species under federal jurisdiction.
The campaign works to bring scientific expertise to bear on fishery management plans and seeks common ground with fishermen to find solutions that balance human and environmental needs and raise awareness about overfishing and potential remedies.
Visit www.PewEnvironment.org to learn about our other conservation work around the world.