Changing Planet

The Bottom Line: A Historic Milestone for America’s Ocean Fish

I recently wrote about some good news from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Fisheries Service regarding improvements in the health of U.S. ocean fish populations. In a little publicized but very important milestone, NOAA fisheries and the regional fishery management councils have completed a task set out by Congress in 2006: establishing enforceable, science-based annual catch limits (ACLs) that end and prevent overfishing. Perhaps fittingly, Alaska—a national model for science-based fisheries management and healthy, profitable fisheries—just capped this federal effort to end overfishing by officially amending its salmon fishery management plan.

Thanks to decades of bipartisan cooperation, we have one of the strongest fisheries management systems in the world. Over the years, presidents and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, including President Gerald Ford and Sen. Warren Magnuson (D-WA) in 1976; President Bill Clinton, Rep. Gerry Studds (D-MA), and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), in 1996; and President George W. Bush and Sen. Stevens in 2006, set aside partisan differences and came together to strengthen our nation’s ocean fishing law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). Thanks to their hard work, we now have measures in place to rebuild depleted ocean fish populations; to ensure that science, not politics, drives management decisions; and to end and prevent overfishing through ACLs.

Though we still have much work to do, this most recent accomplishment in Alaska is an important milestone in our efforts to secure profitable fisheries and healthy oceans. Around the country, we have examples of fish populations that are recovering thanks to the MSA’s conservation requirements, including Gulf red snapper and mid-Atlantic summer flounder (follow the links to see recipes for these species from celebrity chefs).

The U.S. fishery management system is one of the best in the world and science-based catch limits are an important cornerstone of it. However, we need to make sure that our fisheries research and science remain top-notch. New legislation, including the Fisheries Investment Act and congressional appropriations for science and management, are critical to maintain this momentum. Equally important, we should not weaken the conservation mandates of the MSA.


Lee Crockett joined The Pew Charitable Trusts in June 2007 as director of Federal Fisheries Policy. As Ddirector, U.S. Oceans, he led Pew’s efforts to establish policies to end overfishing and promote ecosystem-based fisheries management in the United States under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the federal law that governs ocean fish management. As director, Crockett oversees all of Pew’s U.S. fisheries campaigns. These include efforts in the Northeast, South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Caribbean, and the Pacific. Before joining Pew, Crockett was executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, the largest national coalition dedicated exclusively to promoting the sustainable management of ocean fish. Under his leadership, the campaign helped efforts to reauthorize and strengthen the MSA. Previously, he was a fishery biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, leading agency efforts to protect essential fish habitat. He also served as a staff member of the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, working on a variety of fisheries, environmental and boating safety issues. Crockett holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in biological oceanography from the University of Connecticut. Before college, he served in the U.S. Coast Guard. He’s also an avid angler who enjoys fishing the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (

Social Media