Consider these three facts:
- New England’s commercial fisheries brought in $1.2 billion in revenue in 2012, up from $691 million in 2003 – a 72 percent increase.
- In 2013, two-thirds of the U.S. fish species that had been struggling to rebound from overfishing showed signs of bouncing back.
- According to NOAA, rebuilding all overfished stocks would lead to a $31 billion increase in annual fish sales and support for half a million jobs!
What’s the driving force behind these impressive numbers? The federal Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, or MSA. Since it was originally passed in 1976, the MSA has been the primary U.S. law governing fisheries. In 2007, Congress reauthorized the law, adding measures aimed at increasing the success of the act’s four commitments: to prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, increase long-term economic and social benefits, and ensure a safe and sustainable supply of seafood.
It’s clear that we are making significant progress in restoring the health of many U.S. fisheries and helping grow jobs and the economy in the process. But in some places – such as here in New England – some critical fish populations have been slow to rebound (in some cases, even plateauing or getting worse). Because of this, we believe there is more work to be done to ensure the next iteration of the MSA builds on the 2007 law’s success and continues to help our fish populations recover.
Saving our iconic cod
One of these still-struggling populations is Atlantic cod. This fish has been important to New Englanders for centuries. It is part of our history and culture and is interwoven into our recreation and our economy. We know that cod used to be so abundant, fishermen told stories of cod jumping up into their boats and “walking across the backs” of cod while out on the water. That this iconic fish has been overfished for decades and is not rebounding is a source of frustration for all of us. Additional threats from climate change impacts and ocean acidification compound the problem. We must do more to make sure that cod is managed with the best available science, the long-term health of the species, and our coastal communities in mind.
A strengthened MSA is the best way to ensure all our fisheries can become and remain sustainable. Only then will we know that cod won’t just be a part of our history, but of our future, too.
You can help!
Congress has begun to hold hearings on the MSA. Here’s how you can help: Watch and share our videos to learn more about the MSA, then contact your representatives at 202.224.3121 to let them know you support a strengthened MSA that will allow us to rebuild cod stocks and maintain healthy, sustainable fisheries for future generations.