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What Fish Stock Rebuilding Means to Communities

October 26, 2023

What it means and the work it takes to rebuild fish stocks.

Dozens of white, brown, and pink-colored sea scallops photographed on a black ocean floor. Dense beds of small Atlantic sea scallops photographed on the ocean floor in the Mid-Atlantic in 2015. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

This summer, NOAA Fisheries and our fishery management partners reached a major milestone when we rebuilt our 50th fish stock. The Snohomish coho salmon stock was declared overfished in 2018 and has now rebuilt to its sustainable level. A combination of responsive fishery management and habitat restoration helped to rebuild this iconic fish population.

Coho salmon swimming under water
Coho salmon. Credit: John R. McMillan/NOAA Fisheries

On this episode, we take a closer look at stock rebuilding—how it is done and what it means. We explore what is required of fishing communities and the people who make the decision that rebuilding is necessary. It's a decision that can carry real consequences, and also bring about positive change.

Brad Pettinger is the chair of the Pacific Fishery Management Council and a vessel owner in the West Coast commercial fishing industry for more than 50 years. Togue Brawn is a fishery manager on the New England Fishery Management Council and the owner of Downeast Dayboat. They discuss the balancing act that is U.S. fisheries management and the sustainability of our ocean resources. These fishery managers also tell us more about some specific success stories. On the West Coast, rockfish conservation areas were set up and fishermen cut back in order to allow fish populations to rebound.  And in the Northeast, Atlantic sea scallops were the first stock to be rebuilt in 2001. As we'll hear, they are now fished sustainably and the fishery is one of the most successful and productive in the country.

While we celebrate the rebuilding of the 50th stock, we also know that more work lies ahead in monitoring and sustaining our fish stocks in the face of climate change.