Annual stock report shows steady progress toward rebuilding our nation’s fisheries

July 14, 2011

Spiny dogfish.

Spiny dogfish was declared rebuilt in 2010, meaning its population level is high enough to provide the maximum sustainable yield over time.

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Three fisheries stocks from the Northeast – Georges Bank haddock, Atlantic pollock and spiny dogfish – have now been rebuilt to healthy levels, bringing to 21 the number that have been rebuilt nationwide since 2000, according to a report to Congress from NOAA’s Fisheries Service issued today.

“We are making great progress ending overfishing and rebuilding stocks around the nation,” Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service said. “We are turning a corner as we see important fish stocks rebounding.”

NOAA’s Status of U.S. Fisheries reports on the fishing activity and population level for fish stocks in the country. Scientists announced today that in 2010, 84 percent of the stocks examined for fishing activity (213 of 253 stocks) were free from overfishing, or not fished at too high a level, and 77 percent of the stocks with known population levels (159 of 207 stocks) were above the overfished level, that level too low to provide the maximum sustainable yield.

“Commercial and recreational fishing depend on healthy and abundant fish stocks and marine ecosystems to provide lasting jobs, food and recreational opportunities,” Schwaab said. “By working with the nation’s eight regional management fishery councils and commercial and recreational fishermen, we are making steady progress each year to fully rebuild overfished stocks.”

Beyond the three rebuilt northeastern stocks, there were other positive changes since last year:

Bering Sea southern Tanner crab.

The Bering Sea southern Tanner crab was added to the list of species with a low population level. Many different factors, including environmental factors, disease, fishing, and habitat degradation, can influence a stock's population. Scientists believe the Tanner crab's decline may be due to environmental factors.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Scientists examined more stocks than ever before in 2010, and findings on these stocks with a previously unknown status were mixed:

A handful of other stocks were moved onto the overfishing and overfished lists this year:  

Although it is often assumed that a stock has a low population due to too much fishing, other factors influence the health and abundance of fish stocks, including environmental changes, disease, and habitat degradation. Scientists believe that one of the stocks added to the overfished list, the Tanner crab in Alaska, may have been affected by environmental factors.

The report, which has been issued annually since 1997, summarizes the best available science for the 528 federally-managed fish stocks. Since not all stocks are targeted by commercial and recreational fishermen, NOAA prioritizes collecting information on the commercially and recreationally important species that constitute most of the domestic fishing activity in the country. Stocks are added or removed from the lists only when new information becomes available. Knowing the status of stocks allows fishery managers to identify and address problems, and effectively rebuild and maintain healthy stocks.

Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, NOAA and the eight regional fishery management councils are required to end overfishing, use annual catch limits and accountability measures to prevent future overfishing, and rebuild stocks to levels that can provide the maximum sustainable yield. NOAA’s Fisheries Service works with the regional fishery management councils around the country to end overfishing for all stocks. Annual catch limits and accountability measures are already in place for 203 of the 528 federally-managed fish stocks, including all stocks that are identified as being fished at too high a level.

Fully rebuilt, U.S fisheries are expected to add $31 billion to the economy and an additional 500,000 jobs. Commercial and recreational fishing currently generate $72 billion per year and support 1.9 million full and part-time jobs.

To complete the annual report, NOAA examines a variety of sources, including landings data and log books, and conducts its own surveys. The 2010 Status of U.S. Fisheries, which contains data and analysis nationally and by region, is available online at

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.