Report: Warming water threatens U.S. fish stocks

WASHINGTON — Fish stocks off the U.S. coasts, restored to health over the past four decades by cooperation among competing interests and careful management, are threatened anew by warming and increasingly acidic waters, according to a new report and experts who are gathering in Washington this week for a conference on the future of fisheries.

The report, released Saturday by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Ocean Conservancy, hails the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and subsequent amendments for bringing commercial and recreational fishermen, marine scientists and legislators together to ensure that fish populations would be sustained.

As Congress approaches another reauthorization of the law, the report says that salmon, scallop and other sea life populations have been brought back from the brink of collapse to a healthy and sustainable state, largely through enforced catch limits.

The “domestic harvest, export, distribution, and retailing of seafood in America … generates more than $116 billion in sales and employs more than 1 million people,” according to the report. “Recreational fishing adds nearly $50 billion and more than 327,000 jobs to that total.”

Connie Barclay, spokeswoman for NOAA Fisheries, said that acting administrator Sam Rauch had not yet read the report but “we welcome stakeholders’ input as we move toward reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.” NOAA is hosting this week’s conference.

More complex problems loom, ones that cannot be solved area by area, experts say. “What we need to pay greater attention to is a changing world and a changing climate and what repercussions that will have,” Chris Dorsett, director of the Ocean Conservancy’s fish conservation and gulf restoration program, said in an interview.

Chief among those issues is the increasing temperature of the oceans, said Lee Crockett, head of Pew’s U.S. fisheries campaign. North Atlantic waters last summer were the warmest in 159 years of record-keeping, he said.

Off the coast of Maine, lobsters are molting six weeks to two months earlier than normal, and blue crabs, a Mid-Atlantic shellfish, have been found in New England waters as they and other sea life move toward Earth’s poles to escape warmer seas, Crockett said.

The sea today is 30 percent more acidic than it was during pre-industrial times. Increasing amounts of carbon in the water lowers the water’s pH and causes it to eat away at protective shells and the bony structures of coral, Dorsett said.

Conservationists say that fisheries managers must begin to adapt to such changes, primarily by managing whole ecosystems, according to the report.

Instead of the “fish first, ask questions later,” approach of the past, Crockett said, “let’s find out what’s appropriate and not appropriate before the fishing starts.”

More in Local News

A customer walks away after buying a hot dog from a vendor on 33rd St and Smith Street near the Everett Station on Friday. The Everett Station District Alliance pictures the area east of Broadway and south of Hewitt Avenue as a future neighborhood and transit hub that could absorb expected population growth. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
How can Everett Station become a vibrant part of city?

A neighborhood alliance focused on long-term revitalization will update the public Tuesday.

Man arrested after police find van full of drugs, cash and guns

An officer on patrol noticed a vehicle by itself in the middle of a WinCo parking lot at 2 a.m.

After work to address issues, Lynnwood gets clean audit

The city has benefited from increased revenues from sales tax.

Bolshevik replaces BS in Eyman’s voters pamphlet statement

The initiative promoter also lost a bid to include a hyperlink to online coverage of the battle.

Man with shotgun confronts man on toilet about missing phone

Police say the victim was doing his business when the suspect barged in and threatened him.

Detectives seek suspect in woman’s homicide

Alisha Michelle Canales-McGuire was shot to death Wednesday at a home south of Paine Field.

Car crashes near Everett after State Patrol pursuit

The driver and a second person in the car suffered injuries.

Smith Island habitat restoration cost to rise $1.2 million

The project is intended to increase survival rates for juvenile chinook salmon.

Jim Mathis, the Vietnam veteran whose Marysville garden was recently featured in The Herald, died Wednesday. Mathis, who suffered from PTSD and cancer, found solace in his beautiful garden. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Vietnam veteran Jim Mathis found peace in his garden

The Marysville man who served two tours died Wednesday after suffering from cancer and PTSD.

Most Read