A new report, released recently by the Marine Conservation Alliance (MCA) entitled "Sea Change: Ecological Progress in U.S. Fishery Management", says the key to success in moving toward ecosystem management of our marine fisheries is to build on existing programs in a deliberate fashion and with increased scientific research necessary to support sound decisions.

"With the increased focus on the condition of our oceans and the sustainability of our fishing practices, this report provides us with vital insights into how to preserve the fragile balance between ecosystem health and our economy," said David Benton, executive director of the Marine Conservation Alliance.

Brad Warren and commissioned by MCA and the University of Alaska Anchorage's Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), with funding provided by the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center, the report outlines practical approaches toward ecosystem management, based largely on the success of Alaska and North Pacific fisheries, recently cited by National Geographic as being one of only three well-managed fisheries in the world (Iceland and New Zealand were the other two).

The 25-page Sea Change report includes findings from a panel of leading scientists and national experts that were convened by ISER to discuss practical approaches to ecosystem-based fishery management and outlines 13 best practices for ecosystem-based fisheries management: Follow scientific advice Set precautionary catch limits Develop a fisheries ecosystem plan (FEP) Protect the habitat by establishing closures in vulnerable areas Reduce bycatch Monitor removals by fisheries, including both target and incidentally caught species Protect seabirds and marine mammals Manage and protect food webs Incorporate data on environmental regimes and climate change into fishery management Rigorously enforce catch limits and other management rules Research to improve understanding of climate effects on fish stocks and ecosystems Research the effects that fisheries have on ecosystems Keep the discourse on fishery management public and transparent The report notes that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council already incorporates most of these best practices into management of the regions fisheries.

Recent actions taken by the council further underscore the findings of the report. These actions included: Adopting a first-ever ecosystem management plan for the Aleutian Islands. Closing roughly 130,000 sq. nautical miles in the northern Bering Sea to bottom trawling as a precautionary measure to protect bottom habitat. Beginning the process to close all federal waters in the Arctic Ocean to commercial fishing until the impacts of climate change can be fully assessed "The findings and recommendations made in the Sea Change report and recent actions taken by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council demonstrate that the Magnuson-Stevens Act already provides a blueprint for managing sustainable fishing practices while ensuring that we meet the growing demand for seafood for many generations to come," Benton added.

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About the Marine Conservation Alliance

The Marine Conservation Alliance is a coalition of seafood processors, harvesters, support industries and coastal communities that are active in Alaska fisheries. The MCA represents approximately 75 percent of the participants in Alaska shellfish and groundfish fisheries and promotes science-based conservation measures to ensure sustainable fisheries in Alaska.

For more information, visit hwww.marineconservationalliance/.

Source: David Benton
Marine Conservation Alliance

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