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New record: Number of overfished stocks in the U.S. reaches all time low

May 17, 2018

Three West Coast fish stocks rebuilt in 2017, six no longer overfished, finds new report.

Mount Edgecumbe, Sitka, Alaska

The number of domestic fish stocks listed as overfished has reached an all-time low, with three species of West Coast rockfish rebuilt to sustainable levels, according to the 2017 Status of U.S. Fisheries report to Congress. The number of stocks on the overfishing list also remained near all-time lows, an encouraging indicator that the U.S. fishery management system is achieving its long-term sustainability goals.

“Ending overfishing and rebuilding stocks provides two key benefits for the American people,” said Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “First, it strengthens the value of U.S. fisheries’ contribution to the economy, which in 2015 exceeded $208 billion dollars. Second, it supports the communities and marine ecosystems that depend on healthy fisheries.”

Three West Coast stocks were rebuilt to target levels in 2017, bringing the total number of rebuilt U.S. marine fish stocks to 44 since 2000:

  • Bocaccio
  • Darkblotched rockfish
  • Pacific ocean perch

The overfishing list at the end of 2017 included 30 stocks, and the overfished list included 35 stocks. Overall, 91 percent of U.S marine fish stocks are not subject to overfishing and 87 percent are not overfished. A stock is on the overfishing list when the harvest ratea direct result of fishing activitiesis too high. A stock is on the overfished list when the population size of a stock is too low, whether because of fishing or other causes, such as environmental changes.

Six stocks were removed from the overfishing list:

  • Sailfish - Western Atlantic
  • Blue king crab – Pribilof Islands
  • Puerto Rico Wrasses Complex
  • Coho salmon - Puget Sound: Hood Canal
  • Winter flounder – Georges Bank
  • Witch flounder – Northwestern Atlantic Coast (due to significant scientific uncertainty, the status of this stock cannot be determined following a 2017 assessment)

Six stocks came off the overfished list:

  • Yelloweye rockfish – Pacific Coast
  • Winter flounder – Georges Bank
  • Gray triggerfish – Gulf of Mexico
  • Red snapper – Gulf of Mexico
  • Pacific ocean perch – Pacific Coast
  • Bluefin tuna – Western Atlantic (due to significant scientific uncertainty, the status of this stock cannot be determined following a 2017 assessment)

“Rebuilding stocks to fully utilize our fisheries is one way NOAA can reduce our nation’s seafood deficit,” said Oliver. “We look forward to exploring innovative approaches to fisheries management and working with our partners to ensure America’s fisheries remain the world’s most sustainable.”

Understanding Sustainable Seafood

Well-managed wild-capture fisheries and environmentally responsible marine aquaculture play an increasingly important role in our food supply, our health, and the environment.


Last updated by NOAA Fisheries Public Affairs on July 27, 2018