WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Overfishing further depleted U.S. fish populations in 2006, a government report said on Friday, a finding that prompted conservation groups to call for catch limits and tougher enforcement.
Species of monkfish, shrimp and sharks were added to a list of fish whose populations have fallen below recommended levels, while types of skate, sole and tuna were among those being caught at rates too high to be sustainable, the “2006 Report of Status of U.S. Fisheries” said.
Forty-seven fish stocks were found to have depleted populations in 2006, compared with 43 the previous year, and 48 were being overfished last year compared with 45 in 2005, said the congressionally mandated report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“The results from 2006 are mixed — some stocks have improved while others have declined. Based on new assessments, we need to end overfishing and rebuild several stocks,” said William Hogarth, the NOAA assistant administrator for fisheries.
The report prompted criticism by conservation groups, which said regional fishery management councils had failed to control overfishing and the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service needed to implement tough rules to limit catches.
“Congress recently passed a law to end overfishing, but we need strong rules to implement it,” said Matt Rand of the National Environmental Trust conservation group.
“The agency needs to set and enforce annual catch limits that must be upheld by the councils,” he added. “We’re encouraged by the direction that the National Marine Fisheries Service is taking in their development of these rules, but if fishery managers continue to ignore the agency’s rules, we’ll never be able to end overfishing.”
Congress last year strengthened the act that governs management of America’s fisheries, NOAA said. The act requires revision of fishery management plans to end overfishing by 2010, it said.