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More Habitat Means More Fish

A Message from NOAA Leadership

In just a few days, commercial and recreational fishers, policymakers, scientists, legislators, business leaders, and ocean advocates will convene in Washington, D.C., at Managing Our Nations Fisheries 3. This conference is designed to chart a course for the future sustainability of U. S. fisheries.

While the federal fishery management system is effectively rebuilding fisheries and is a global model of science-based management, challenges and opportunities remain. One of the greatest we face is effectively implementing ecosystem-based fisheries management with an increasing emphasis on addressing threats like climate change and integrating habitat conservation principles into our collective management efforts.

U.S. fisheries play an enormous role in the U.S. economy, and healthy freshwater, coastal, and marine habitats are essential to those fisheries. In 2011:

  • U.S. commercial landings reached 9.9 billion pounds of seafood valued at $5.3 billion.
  • The seafood industry generated $129 billion in sales impacts and supported 1.2 million jobs.
  • Recreational fishing generated $70 billion in sales impacts with a 40 percent increase in industry jobs over 2010.

These impressive figures are only possible with resilient ecosystems and healthy habitats that form the foundation for robust fisheries and robust economies.

Habitats essential for sustainable fisheries remain at risk. Estuaries supported approximately 46 percent (by weight) and 68 percent (by value) of the U.S. commercial fish and shellfish landings from 2000 through 2004 and approximately 80 percent of the recreational landings during the same period. Yet 53 percent of the estuaries (by area) in the lower 48 states are considered at high or very high risk of current habitat degradation.

Essential fish habitat provisions were added to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in recognition that degradation of fish habitat threatened many of our nation’s fish stocks and that habitat conservation is essential to achieve sustainable fisheries. We were given the tools to address threats to marine fisheries and have made significant progress in identifying, protecting, and restoring valuable fish habitat; however, more must be done.

This is a new era in fisheries management—one that includes the strategic alignment and integration of habitat conservation efforts to support the needs of fish stocks as a key component of our collective success. We need to look to the future in a holistic, comprehensive way that considers the needs of the fish and the fishermen, and the ecosystems and communities they support. We all share the common goal of healthy fisheries that can be sustained for generations.

Ultimately, more habitat means more fish.  

Eric Schwaab
Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries
Performing the duties and functions
of the Assistant Secretary of Conservation and
Management/Deputy Administrator

Posted April 29, 2013