Ray Hilborn, Professor, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences University of Washington was one of the people who testified at the House Committee on Natural Resources Magnuson hearing this week.
Ray makes the point that we have lost sight of the original goals of Magnuson, which were to achieve jobs and economic benefits from sustainable resources, as well as protecting those resources from over use. Accordingly, he suggests that too rigid an approach to fishery management focusing exclusively on overfishing has distorted the outcome, so that while we lose perhaps 3% of total yield to continued overfishing, we lose as much as 48% of achievable yield by not fishing enough. He calls for a rebalancing of these goals, so that we may have both sustainable fisheries, and the economic benefits that are acheivable from our resources.
The testimony is below:
Committee on House Natural Resources
September 11, 2013
Good morning and I want to thank the members and staff for the opportunity to address this committee. My name is Ray Hilborn, I am a Professor of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Washington. I have been studying fisheries management for over 40 years, both in the U.S. and in a number of other countries and international commissions. This has resulted in 250 peer reviewed journal articles, and several books including most recently "Overfishing: what everyone needs to know" published by Oxford University Press.
I am not representing any group, although I do receive research funding from a wide range of foundations, NGOs, and commercial and recreational interest groups, the National Science Foundation and NOAA.
I am not here to argue for specific changes to the Magnuson- Stevens Act, rather to provide background on our growing knowledge of how fish populations behave, and how U.S. fisheries are performing.
What are our objectives?
The text of the Act begins with "To provide for the conservation and management of the fisheries, and for other purposes," but then becomes more specific by stating that rebuilding fish stocks, ensuring conservation and protecting essential habitat are all intentions of the act. Also, the Act makes it clear that one objective is to provide for "the development of fisheries which are underutilized or not utilized … to assure that our citizens benefit from the employment, food supply and revenue which could be generated thereby."
In short, the objective of the Act appears to be to provide for sustainable employment, food supply, recreational opportunity and revenue, and to achieve that, conservation of fish stocks and habitats is essential. The two specifically targeted actions are to rebuild overexploited stocks and develop fisheries on underutilized species. Yet, as I will show below, while we have reduced overfishing, one consequence has been far more underutilized fish stocks and we seem to have lost sight of the actual goals of employment, food supply, recreational opportunity and revenue.