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Illegal Fishing


Habitat Damage


Consumers and Fishermen

Around the world, regulations dealing with overfishing and other ocean issues are, in many areas, weak and poorly enforced. While all of us—consumers and fishermen alike—can produce positive change, individuals can't do it all. Innovative management is essential, using proven measures like those below, customized to each fishery.

Requiring Catch Limits

Overfishing is one of the biggest issues facing the health of our ocean. Management agencies need to set catch limits that help ensure the health of species and preserve their roles in the ecosystem.

Reaping the Benefits of Less Damaging Gear

In many places, fishermen have made modifications to their gear or switched to different gears altogether to reduce bycatch and habitat damage. This includes requiring devices that allow turtles to escape from nets, the use of less harmful "circle hooks" and modifications to trawls to reduce their impact on the living seafloor.

Stopping Illegal Fishing

About a fifth of the world's catch is illegal. Effective enforcement can help eliminate this drain on ocean resources. One example is the wasteful practice of shark finning, where the shark's fins are removed and the rest of the animal is thrown overboard to die a slow death. This practice, while illegal in over 100 nations, continues to threaten shark populations worldwide.

Creating "Yosemites of the Sea"

Similar to state and national parks on land, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) preserve prime undersea habitat, allowing marine wildlife to recover and thrive. These safe havens result in larger, more abundant fish, plants and other marine life. Management agencies should continue to expand the network of MPAs.

Taking an "Ecosystem" Approach

The Pew Oceans Commission recommended that Congress push for an "ecosystem" approach to fishery management, rather than the traditional approach of managing a fishery's impact on individual species. This emphasizes interactions among species and the environments in which they live. U.S. conservation groups mobilized hundreds of chefs and consumers to boycott swordfish while advocating for better management practices.

What You Can Do

Support Marine Protected Areas (noaa.gov)

Establishing Marine Protected Areas is one of the best ways to ensure the ocean's ability to sustain life. These areas—like national parks on land—protect habitats important to maintaining a healthy ocean.


Story of Hope


Tunas, swordfish, sharks and other fish that don't limit their range to one country or region's waters require international cooperation to ensure their conservation.

In the 1990s, Atlantic swordfish populations were severely depleted due to overfishing and mismanagement. U.S. conservation groups mobilized consumers and hundreds of influential chefs to "Give Swordfish a Break" and stop eating these fish until better international management practices were in place.

Due in part to these efforts, in 1999 the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which oversees the fishery, recommended that member countries reduce catches of North and South Atlantic swordfish by 45 percent. In 2001 and 2002, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) also implemented a swordfish protection plan that placed swordfish nursery grounds off-limits to fishing. With stringent enforcement measures in place, the decline in North Atlantic swordfish stocks was halted.

Today, both populations of swordfish have recovered to healthy levels. As a result of these actions, U.S. Atlantic swordfish, once on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's "Avoid" list, moved into the "Good Alternatives" list, reflecting the success of these rebuilding efforts.

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