UNH Fisheries Expert Says “Stay
The Course” With Ocean Fish Recovery Policy In Science
Contact: David Sims
Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
July 28, 2005
Editors: Andrew Rosenberg may be contacted at
DURHAM, N.H. -- In a strongly worded defense of existing, embattled
U.S. legislation aimed at ending overfishing and rebuilding depleted
populations within the next decade, scientists write in the July
29 issue of Science that altering current policy would be
misguided and counterproductive.
The article’s authors state that the United States took the
lead role in rebuilding fish populations through passage of the
Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996. According to the article, the
United States has numerous marine species whose recovering populations
are linked to federal rebuilding mandates. And yet, some recent
legal decisions and congressional proposals would relax or eliminate
the law’s recovery mandates.
The article, whose lead author is Carl Safina of the Marine Sciences
Research Center at Stony Brook University, shows “quantitatively
that the existing timetable is responsible, reasonable, and biologically
Scientist Andrew Rosenberg of the University of New Hampshire and
the article’s second author, is the former Northeast Regional
Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service. In that
capacity, Rosenberg was responsible for calling many of the shots
as scientists and the government began to grapple with the devastating
collapse of Atlantic Ocean fishing stocks.
According to Rosenberg, professor of natural resources at the UNH
Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, the recovery
of populations of scallops, haddock and other groundfish is “unequivocally”
the result of the federal government having imposed severe restrictions.
The authors point out that some commercial fishing interests and
members of Congress have attacked the current law’s 10-year
time frame for rebuilding depleted fish populations as “too
rigid, aggressive, and arbitrary.” However, the 10-year window,
they claim, is both reasonable and scientifically sound.
“Ten years (twice the time the majority of populations require
for rebuilding) was chosen to avoid Draconian mandates; to help
ensure that managers actually commence rebuilding; to increase chances
for success; and to minimize future ecological, social and economic
costs. This optimizing balance was deliberate and compassionate,
not arbitrary,” the authors stress.
“In sum,” the article states, “the longer managers
allow overfishing, the more depletion undermines subpopulations,
diversity, resilience, and adaptability, risks ecosystem structure
and functioning, reduces chances for eventual recovery, and raises
social and economic costs.”