Gulf Fish Forever is a campaign that generates a lot of conversation. Of course, many conversations are about the complexities of fishery management in the Gulf of Mexico.
Commercial anglers, recreational anglers, chefs and consumers often share the same concerns about our fisheries - how can we manage our marine resources sustainably?
“Sustainability” is a key concern for all parties involved in the discussion about Gulf fishery management. Sustainability is a word that holds such a vague definition in the world of environmental advocacy that it has become virtually ineffective. At first, the word is satisfying to hear, until one realizes the vastness of its use. What does sustainability actually mean?
In order to get a better idea of what sustainability means to those using the term professionally, I spoke with staff at Gulf Restoration Network.
During my interview process, I emphasized that I wanted a definition of the word in regard to Gulf fisheries. GRN's Gulf Fish Forever campaign promotes sustainable fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and urges the public to support conservation legislation as well as address overfishing in the Gulf.
Here at GRN, we use the term "sustainability" to speak about our vision for management of the fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico that have been abused and exploited for decades.
The historic mismanagement of fisheries has led to a rapid decrease of fish populations. Ultimately, this loss has also affected the millions of people who rely on the robust fisheries for jobs, food access and recreation.
To create sustainable fisheries, we must coordinate community and government efforts to conserve our oceans and the life within them. And, to keep fisheries healthy, we must ensure that fish reach their maximum sustainable yield before we fish. Maximum sustainable yield, or MSY, is determined by an equation that calculates how many fish can be caught to maintain or increase their current population. Without consideration of the MSY, fish populations will not be productive and they will collapse under immense fishing pressures.
The health of our oceans and their delicate ecosystems can be maintained through conscious efforts as set by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including:
- Establishing conservation of ocean ecosystems as a primary responsibility of fisheries management.
- Requiring an end to overfishing and the rebuilding of depleted fish populations.
- Reducing wasteful killing of non-target ocean wildlife, protecting critical fish habitat and maintaining the integrity of marine food webs by conserving forage fish.
Sustainable fisheries are not out of reach. The long-term preservation of our ocean ecosystems is one of the most important issues that our society faces today. Fishery sustainability is possible, but it requires immediate attention. If we can effectively remedy the problems that fisheries face, we can create a healthy ocean ecosystem that all will benefit from, especially here in the Gulf of Mexico.
Federica Pauli is GRN's Gulf Fish Forever intern.