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Recovery knocks 21 fish species from watch list


By ELLEN KNICKMEYER

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Twenty-one species of fish made the leap Tuesday off a watch list of seafood to avoid as unsustainably overfished, leaving conservationists and many fishermen and chefs celebrating the turnaround of a West Coast fishing ground declared an economic disaster area by the federal government just 14 years ago.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium upgraded the 21 species of West Coast bottom-dwelling fish known as ground fish - including rockfish, sablefish, and other workhorses of the white-fish seafood fillet market - from its "avoid" category on the Seafood Watch list, meaning the food industry and consumers now should feel free to sell and eat those fish without guilt.

The declaration marks a rebound from 2000, when commercial overfishing of ground fish off California, Oregon and Washington had depleted those and other species so badly as to earn a government designation of an economic disaster.

The related federal cut in the allowable catch of ground fish off the West Coast "was devastating to a lot of the fishing families, but it was so overfished," recalled Cindy Walter, the daughter of a professional fisherman and co-owner now of a Pacific Grove, California, restaurant specializing in sustainably harvested fish.

At the time, Walter assumed the ground-fish fishing ground "was going to be closed for a very, very long time, like most of my life," Walter said. The fact it reopened after only 14 years "is a great thing because it really shows when you have the fishermen and the NGOs and the government working ... they can turn around a fishery."

Key actions that helped the West Coast ground-fish rebound include greatly increased government monitoring and control of fishing boats' take, assigning fishing quotas to individual fishermen rather than to types of fish, and closing off some areas of the ocean to safeguard vulnerable habitat, those involved said.

In the early 1990s, 500 commercial fishing boats plied the ground-fish fishery off the West Coast, said Brad Pettinger, a trawl fisherman and executive direction of Oregon's state commission for trawl-fishing. Fellow fishermen helped buy out many of those 500 to help bring down the total to 100 fishing boats today, Pettinger said.

"You want to match up the available fish with the right number" of fishermen, Pettinger said. "I've been in the fishery when there are too many boats chasing too few fish. Believe me, that's no place you want to be."

Ground-fish account for more than 10 percent of fish caught in the United States, said Jennifer Kemmerly, director of the Seafood Watch program. Unlike many other types of fish, most U.S. ground fish are consumed in the country rather than shipped overseas.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has managed the Seafood Watch list since 1999 to encourage the food industry and consumers to avoid types of fish that are being harvested in unsustainable numbers. A mobile-phone app for the watch list, for example, has been downloaded more than 1 million times.

Conservation groups say more than 85 percent of the world's fisheries are being fished more quickly and heavily than breeding populations can sustain. Fish of greatest concern for overfishing now include orange roughy and sharks, Kemmerly said.

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creepyasscracker6 September 02 2014 at 11:19 PM

... how come no list of the 21 fish that are off the list? What's this .. the white house?

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6 replies
cptsujet September 03 2014 at 10:16 AM

How about providing the list you dimwits?

Flag Reply +6 rate up
phil September 03 2014 at 10:15 AM

list of species removed from watch list, please. typical poor aol reporting

Flag Reply +6 rate up
niceguy71653 September 03 2014 at 7:09 AM

Another worthless tory. It doesn't give a list of the 21 species.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
2 replies
Daphne Happy niceguy71653 September 03 2014 at 8:02 AM

You're NOT what your name implies . . . and you need to learn to spell - EVERY ONE OF YOUR POSTS HAS TYPOS! So, how do you like the all caps directed at YOU???.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
kgc073 niceguy71653 September 03 2014 at 2:16 PM

Hey Daphne, You do not seem too happy as your name implies. But you sure did straiten out niceguy.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
songbirdgray September 03 2014 at 12:46 AM

SOME OF THESE COMMENTS ACT LIKE FISH IS EITHER DEMOCRATIC OR REPUBLICAN , GET A LIFE!!! I SUSPECT PROFESSIONAL FISHERMAN HAD A LOT TO DO WITH THIS DECISION.

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3 replies
Jeff September 03 2014 at 10:05 AM

Great article???.....What 21 species would have been nice to include in this piece since that was the title.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
songbirdgray September 03 2014 at 12:44 AM

LOVE FSH , GOOD NEWS DON'T EVER EAT FISH FROM CHINA , I HAVE HEARD REALLY BAD THINGS ABOUT IT.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
3 replies
Rich and Paula September 03 2014 at 9:25 AM

wheres the list??????????

Flag Reply +2 rate up
ron4342 September 02 2014 at 11:27 PM

OMG! OMG! OMG!!! The federal government took steps that helped save a valuable fishing area. The conservatives are going to **** bricks. Conservatives have assured us for years that everything the government does will fail. Now watch closely, the conservatives will find a way to ignore this and to put out false information to muddy the water.

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9 replies
jjfu September 03 2014 at 10:13 AM

I hope it is an actual recovery and not just greed that caused this to happen.

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