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Habitat Protection, Ecological Issues, and Implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Act

David Fluharty
Ecological Applications
Vol. 10, No. 2 (Apr., 2000), pp. 325-337
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/2641096
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2641096
Page Count: 13
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Habitat Protection, Ecological Issues, and Implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Act
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Abstract

Fishery scientists and managers and the general public are becoming increasingly aware of, and concerned about, the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of habitat change on commercial and recreational fisheries, and the effects of these fisheries in an ecosystem context. This set of concerns is coupled with declines in some fish stocks due to mismanagement, such as overfishing, failure to account for bycatch, or gear damage to habitats, and/or changing environmental conditions. At the same time, there are examples of management decisions and habitat restoration efforts that have led to the recovery of depleted stocks and habitats. All of this is happening in the context of new concerns about marine biodiversity, marine reserves, and application of the Endangered Species Act to marine species (e.g., salmonids with extensive riverine, and ocean habitat needs). The Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA), passed by Congress in September 1996, and signed by President Clinton 11 October 1996, is a wake-up call that mandates, as federal policy, that fishery management move toward better incorporation of information on fish habitats and use of ecosystem approaches in management decisions. Currently, fishery managers in the National Marine Fisheries Service and the eight regional councils are in the process of adapting to these new directions. Habitat-oriented and ecosystem-based approaches offer potential solutions to some of the management problems, but they are not panaceas. Ecosystem approaches carry institutional requirements that demand major changes in research and training and require support from the user communities and the public. Ecologically sustainable fisheries are undoubtedly much different fisheries from many of those now observed. Actions to implement the SFA portend significant progress toward more sustainable fisheries and healthier ecosystems. However, major gaps exist in understanding how to manage the transition from current fishery practices to ecologically sustainable ones, and significant increases in human and fiscal resources are necessary to overcome these gaps.

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