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Dr. Ellen Pikitch, Cabinet Secretaries, Members of Congress Give President-Elect Obama a Roadmap to End Overfishing Crisis, Grow Fishing Economy

November 13, 2008

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The economic and environmental disaster of overfishing can be stopped with a straightforward update of fishing regulations, according to Oceans of Abundance, a new report released today by a bipartisan working group of two dozen economic and environmental leaders and scientists including Dr. Ellen Pikitch, Executive Diretor of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University. Dr. Pikitch is a signatory on the report, which is available at http://www.OceansOfAbundance.org.

"President-Elect Obama faces depleted fisheries that have caused painful job loss and a ticking litigation clock if legal deadlines to end overfishing by 2011 aren't met," said Bruce Babbitt, co-chair of the working group and former Secretary of the Interior and Arizona governor.

"The good news is that new science clearly points the way to recovery."

"Overfishing is one environmental crisis that President-Elect Obama and Congress can actually solve in the near-term," said Norm Mineta, working group member and former Commerce and Transportation secretary.

The group recommends widespread adoption of "catch shares," a fishery management system that gives fishermen the flexibility to determine how and when to best meet scientific catch targets. Recent research published in the journals Science and Nature shows that catch shares can stop, and even reverse the collapse of fisheries worldwide while increasing the abundance of fish that can be caught.

"The leaders who developed these recommendations share a conviction that catch shares are, by far, the best way to manage the nation's fish stocks," said former Rep. James Greenwood from Pennsylvania, co-chair of the working group, and president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Association. "Our conclusions are rooted in science, economics, experience, and a realistic assessment of what can be accomplished over the next few years."

Catch shares set mandatory scientific targets and give fishermen maximum flexibility in choosing how to meet that target. The mandatory target holds fishermen accountable to catching only the allowable amount of fish. The flexibility gives fishermen the chance to improve their efficiency, and allows them to benefit as they help restore the oceans. The value of their shares increases as the health of the resource improves. The combination of private accountability and flexibility works better than having the government try to manage the details of the fishing business, the working group found.

The stakes of the overfishing crisis are enormous as the food supply of one billion people is in jeopardy, along with 200 million associated jobs worldwide. "Catch shares are a powerful way to secure fish populations that people around the globe rely on for their main source of protein," said working group member Jeffrey Sachs, director, The Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Science-based catch shares, wherever implemented, make fish more abundant and fisheries more profitable. Catch shares also protect ocean productivity and diversity more effectively than traditional management. Economists at the University of California, Santa Barbara estimate that catch shares will easily double the value of U.S. fisheries.

The report urges President-Elect Obama to ensure that all federal fishery management plans are evaluated for catch shares by 2012, and that at least half of all plans feature catch share management by 2016. Other management programs would be required to match the same level of economic and environmental performance.

The working group also urges Congress to ease bottlenecks to the President's goal by passing legislation requiring catch shares be considered in all federal fishery management plans by 2012.

The Oceans of Abundance working group was convened by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Marine Conservation Biology Institute to present policymakers with achievable methods, based on the most current scientific consensus, to reverse the economic and environmental decline of U.S. fisheries and the communities that depend on them. World Wildlife Fund contributed content to the report. Support for the report was provided by the Walton Family Foundation.

SOURCE Environmental Defense Fund

Download the "Oceans of Abundance" Report
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