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  • In the early 1990s, many of our nation's fish populations were in severe decline because of overfishing. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is working to protect and rebuild America's ocean fish populations.
  • The benefits of ending overfishing and rebuilding overfished populations are far-reaching, and the costs of delaying rebuilding are significant.
  • As America's ocean fish populations continue to rebound, Congress should reject proposals to remove or delay conservation deadlines.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is working to protect and rebuild America's ocean fish populations. Rebounding fish populations create jobs, support coastal economies, repair damaged marine ecosystems, provide increased recreational fishing opportunities and supply fresh, local seafood. In the early 1990s, many of our nation's fish populations were in severe decline because of overfishing. In response, Congress amended the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1996 to require that depleted (also called overfished) fish stocks be rebuilt in as short a time as possible, but not to exceed 10 years, with certain limited exceptions.

As a result, our nation has been making remarkable strides toward restoring overfished populations to healthy, sustainable levels, with significant economic and ecological benefits:

  • Since 2000, 34 commercially and recreationally important fish stocks have rebuilt from an overfished status to healthy population levels.
  • Two-thirds of all overfished stocks have either rebuilt or made significant progress since the Magnuson-Stevens Act rebuilding requirements were strengthened in 1996, amounting to a 92 percent (54 percent, adjusted for inflation) increase in commercial revenues for these stocks since the start of their respective rebuilding plans.
  • U.S. seafood landings and revenues set a 14-year record in 2011 (with a value of more than $5.3 billion), and recreational fishing generated $58 billion in sales impacts in 2012.

The benefits of ending overfishing and rebuilding overfished populations are far-reaching, and the costs of delaying rebuilding are significant. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has estimated that the complete rebuilding of all U.S. stocks will increase fishermen's dockside revenues by $2.2 billion a year -- a 42 percent increase from 2011 revenue -- and produce as much as an additional $31 billion in total sales impact supporting 500,000 new jobs.

We must capitalize on these successes and finish the job of rebuilding valuable U.S. fish populations. Unfortunately, 40 commercially and recreationally important federally managed fish populations remain at unhealthy levels. As America's ocean fish populations continue to rebound, Congress should reject proposals to remove or delay conservation deadlines. The existing rebuilding requirement in the law has proven effective even while being implemented in a flexible fashion. For example, the average time period in rebuilding plans to date is almost 20 years.

Clearly, the Magnuson-Stevens Act has been an essential tool to help rebuild our fish populations and the fisheries they support. We must stay the course to ensure that more fish populations recover and that we continue to benefit from the economic gains of sustainable fisheries management.

Read the fact sheet to learn more about Rebuilding Success Stories.

last revised 6/17/2014

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