Responsible Fisheries: How Can You Help?

Responsible Fisheries: How Can You Help?

Here at the Virginia Aquarium, we think it's pretty exciting when we can celebrate incredible efforts that are creating positive change; especially when it involves education and science-based calls to action successfully teaming to lead the charge. And so, this summer we want to applaud the successful work being done for sustainable commercial fishing.  Since the implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) in 1976 to govern marine fisheries management in U.S. Federal waters, the U.S. has seen impressively strong economic growth in the fishery industry and the strong steady progress towards restoring the health of our waters and fish populations. The United States truly has set a high bar and our fisheries and fish species conservation efforts are a model example for the world.  But as the old saying goes, we can't rest on our laurels.  We must continue re-evaluating what is working and discovering what yet needs improvement.

But, you might be asking, "Why should I care?" Globally speaking, the United States leads the world in sustainable and responsible commercial fishing. We have created a model for success that other parts of the world can follow. More locally, support for sustainable fishing is important because Virginia is the nation's third largest seafood producer, the largest on the Atlantic Coast, and the Chesapeake Bay is one of the prime fishing areas. An overall healthy marine ecosystem is vital to the overall health of our community. It is because of the MSA and the efforts of many working together to make substantial improvements in this industry that we can celebrate the return of many species and ecosystems to the balanced state nature intended.

One example of a local species that was successfully revived from near extinction because of scientifically-based action is the striped bass. This fish is a key indicator species in the food web, revealing the greater health of the water and alerting us when other species it feeds on might not be thriving.  Though this very important fish species is doing well today, scientists continue to closely monitor the striped bass populations ready to report when changes might need to be made.

​There are always new challenges to our sustainability practices. Climate changes cause fish populations to relocate.  The higher absorption of carbon can lead to an increase in ocean water acidity, jeopardizing many wild fisheries. And these are just two examples of why science-based decisions are foundational to environmental regulations made in the future.  Shrinking federal budgets place strict limits on the resources available to address important conservation issues, but the primary motivation must continually be the health of the planet and conservation.

With the Magnuson-Stevens Act up for reauthorization, we want to urge Congress to continue its tradition of bipartisan support for this law and preserve its legacy of success. At the Aquarium, we are collecting signatures to present to Congress, showing that we stand in strong unified support of reauthorizing the MSA.  We hope you will choose to add your signature to ours and show your support in ensuring we all benefit from a healthy and robust marine ecosystem for generations.