The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave us a lot of new numbers to chew on today, with the issuance of their Fisheries of the United States report for 2011. The agency credited a 17-year high in seafood landings in part to rebuilding stocks. Six stocks were rebuilt in 2011 according to an earlier report; this was the highest number of stocks to be rebuilt in a single year.
A potentially more worrisome highlight from today’s report is the fact that 91% of the seafood Americans consumed in 2011 was imported. Given the increasing sustainability of America’s fisheries—and the sheer lack of information we have about much of our imported seafood—this raises serious questions. Matt Tinning, Executive Director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network issued the following statement:
“Today’s report has both good and troubling news—a not uncommon theme in our fisheries. The 10.1 billion pounds of fish caught in 2011 were harvested under a management regime that holds managers accountable for keeping fisheries on a sustainable course—and it appears to be working. Every rebuilt stock is a testament to the hard work undertaken by America’s fishermen and other stakeholders to invest in the long-term health and prosperity of our fisheries.
“That said, it is extremely worrisome that so much of America’s seafood is coming from abroad, given the current legal and regulatory landscape. When you buy American seafood, you know it’s increasingly being caught sustainably. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of many imports. By some estimates, pirate fishing accounts for more than 20 percent of the global seafood supply chain. Until a more effective traceability regime is in place for seafood bought and sold in United States, the sad truth is that American retailers and consumers risk unwittingly fueling demand for illegally-caught fish.
“It may be talk like a pirate day, but we certainly shouldn’t be encouraging people to fish like one. Until we as a nation do better on seafood traceability, however, a staggering 91 percent of our seafood supply chain is at risk of doing just that.”
You can read more about the Network’s reaction to the report at FishHQ, the blog.