This week marked the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the law that took U.S. fisheries management from being virtually nonexistent to becoming a global model of sustainability.
In the 1970s, Ted Stevens, a former Army pilot-turned U.S. Senator and avid Alaskan fisherman, was flying above the Bering Sea en route to the remote Pribilof Islands. Along the way, he saw a scene that alarmed him: almost 100 Japanese trawlers fishing in Alaskan waters. In a bipartisan spirit unknown today, Senators Warren Magnuson (D-WA) and Ted Stevens (R-AK) crafted a groundbreaking law which greatly expanded our national maritime boundaries, established national fisheries management standards, and kept local decisions in the hands of regionally-appointed rulemakers who know their waters and their communities’ needs best.
The instances of overfishing and the number of overfished stocks are now at all-time lows. We have largely ended unsustainable fishing practices and returned many fish stocks to healthy levels that will provide fish and fishing opportunities for generations to come. Since 2000, 39 fish stocks have returned to sustainable levels. In 2014, NOAA Fisheries announced just 8 percent of managed fish stocks remain on the overfishing list and 16 percent of stocks considered overfished—all of them under rebuilding plans.
Rigorous fisheries management has been extremely harsh on fishermen and the traditional fishing communities they support. Vast numbers were driven from the business. For years fishermen numbers dwindled and their average age grew older.
Maybe the best news is that for the first time in generations, fishermen are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, with young people seeing a future in fishing.
All the best,
from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team