Whether a private advocacy group puts a fishery on a brightly colored list has no bearing on how that species is being managed in this country (and it ought not). Our management system responds to data and is gradually being exposed to more cooperative research gleaned by scientists and fishermen working together.
I don’t believe there is any likelihood that we will catch the last fish of any species. Mother Nature is smarter than we are. But I do know that if we allow fishing to become too efficient, we will do our best to bring that fishery back to a healthy population before establishing it as a viable commercial target again.
What people don’t understand when they read “overfished” on a list is that the designation does not mean the species is on the brink of total collapse or at risk of disappearing altogether. It may simply mean that it was harvested at a rate higher than it was replenishing itself.
Of course, that’s assuming fishing is the primary problem in the decline of a species. In many cases, it is not. Unfortunately, fishermen have little say over waterfront development, pollution, climate change or natural shifts in species habitats. They pay the price, nevertheless.
But maybe, just maybe, the U.S. fishing industry is on its way to having a say in how it is perceived. Kudos to Alaska’s salmon pioneers. First for recognizing the benefits of eco-labeling and now for taking the next step in the wild beyond.