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The Hidden Cost of Overfishing to Commercial Fishermen

$15.2 million in the Southeast. $149 million in New England.

What are these numbers, and what do they mean? According to a new report commissioned by the Pew Environment Group, they reveal that in 2009 alone, a staggering $164.2 million was lost by commercial fishermen due to decades of overfishing. In that year, just 25 percent of potential revenue was realized.

The report, The Hidden Cost of Overfishing to Commercial Fishing (PDF), prepared by the non-profit organization Ecotrust, examines the impact of chronic overfishing with a focus on three regions hit hardest by depleted fish populations. Had populations of fish in the GulfSouth Atlantic and New England been healthy, the dollars lost by fishermen could have been income.

Ocean fish are a vital renewable resource, providing food, employment and recreation to people here and abroad. Healthy populations of fish are also essential to vibrant ecosystems and biodiversity. But years of overfishing have depleted more than 20 percent of the commercially and recreationally important ocean fish in the United States—including some species of cod, flounder, snapper and grouper.

Overfishing also hurts people and coastal communities that depend on the sea. When fish populations decline, fisheries managers must take difficult steps to restore species, such as reducing catch levels. However, when healthy fish stocks are caught sustainably, catch and potential sales are maximized over the long-term.

Congress recognized the long-term costs of overfishing in 2006 when it strengthened the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), our nation's primary ocean fishing law, by requiring science-based catch limits to end overfishing and to rebuild depleted fish populations. Now Congress should resist further tinkering with the law and let fish stocks—and fishermen's income—return to healthy levels.

Read the report:

Executive Summary: The Hidden Cost of Overfishing to Commercial Fishermen (PDF)

Full Report: The Hidden Cost of Overfishing to Commercial Fishermen (PDF)


Related News and Resources

  • National Geographic: A Better Way to Protect Our Ocean Ecosystems

    • Opinion
    • Apr 02, 2014
    The application of new science, along with critical reforms of key laws and regulations, is leading to more effective policies to manage America’s ocean fisheries.


  • Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management

    • Fact Sheet
    • Mar 20, 2014
    Ensuring the long-term health of important marine species will depend upon our ability to understand and account for the interactions among those species, their environment, and the people who rely upon them for food, commerce, and sport.


  • Pew Comments on Offshore Angler Permit Proposal

    • Other Resource
    • Apr 10, 2014
    On behalf of The Pew Charitable Trusts, Chad W. Hanson, Officer of the U.S. Oceans Southeast, submitted comments to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regarding the proposed Gulf Offshore Recreational Fishing Permit (offshore permit).


  • Pew Comments on Amendment 28 to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan

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    • Mar 25, 2014
    On March 25, 2014, Chad W. Hanson of The Pew Charitable Trusts wrote a letter to Doug Boyd, Chairman of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, regarding Amendment 28 to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan [Red Snapper Allocation].


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