The world over, regulations dealing with overfishing and other issues facing our oceans are 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 the biggest issue facing the health of our oceans. Management agencies need to set catch limits that help ensure the health of species, and preserve their roles in the ecosystem. Many Alaska wild salmon fisheries are thriving under sensible limits and careful management.
Reaping the Benefits of Better Gear
In places where management agencies have enforced the use of better fishing gear, bycatch and habitat damage have been reduced. This includes requiring devices that allow turtles to escape from nets, the use of less harmful "circle hooks" and a movement away from harmful methods such as bottom trawls and dredges.
Stopping Illegal Fishing
At least a quarter of the world's catch is illegal. Effective enforcement can help eliminate this drain on our ocean resources. One example is the wasteful practice of shark finning, where the sharks' 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 our 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 individual species. This emphasizes interactions among species and the environments where they live. U.S. conservation groups mobilized hundreds of chefs and consumers to boycott swordfish while advocating for better management practices.