Government Agency Claims Progress In Protecting Nation's Fish Stocks;
Environmentalists Skeptical, Critical


The annual State of U.S. Fisheries Report for Congress was released in
May by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National
Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries). According to NOAA, the
report "marks another year of success in rebuilding America's marine
fish stocks," but environmental organizations were less sanguine in
their response to the report's publication.

In a press release to announce the release of the report, NOAA
Fisheries highlighted the report's observations that "an additional
fish stock was fully rebuilt, four species were taken off the
overfished list in 2002 as they head toward full recovery, and 70
overfished species continue to recover under federal rebuilding plans."
The press release asserts that: "A review of the past five years of
fisheries management shows steady, incremental improvement in the
status of America's fisheries. Twenty species have been taken off the
overfished list and overfishing has been eliminated for twenty-five
species, in spite of certain limitations such as slow growth and
maturity of many exploited species and variable environmental impacts
on fish populations."

Environmentalists viewed the same report and came away with a different
picture. In its own press release, the National Environmental Trust
(NET) pointed to the report's less optimistic findings, among them:

- 86 fish stocks are currently overfished -depleted beyond sustainable
levels.

- 66 fish stocks are being fished at too high a rate.

- The status of nearly 75% of U.S. fish stocks - 695 of the 932 - is
unknown.

According to Gerald Leape, NET's Vice President of Marine Conservation,
the report "makes clear that overfishing continues to take place in
U.S. waters The U.S. government is not doing enough."

Added Lee Crockett, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation
Network: "Our oceans are clearly being mismanaged to the detriment of
both the fisherman and the marine environment. America's ocean
management needs to be reformed to ensure healthy ocean ecosystems for
the future."

For Further Information: The NOAA Fisheries report can be downloaded or
viewed at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/reports.html .

Contact: Gerald B. Leape, National Environment Trust. E-mail: gleape@environet.org