Restoring Marine Fish and Wildlife Populations

Number 2020-09

WHEREAS, numerous species in marine ecosystems in United States territorial waters are in decline, including fish, marine megafauna, shorebirds, sea birds and others; and

WHEREAS, the declines in these species are directly linked to numerous and often overlapping threats, including loss of habitat and coastal development, climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, vessel traffic, non-selective fishing gear that results in high levels of bycatch and or gear which disrupts bottom habitats; and

WHEREAS, while the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other fisheries management policies have led to the recovery of significant numbers of fish stocks, such as West Coast groundfish, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration March 2020 quarterly stock assessment update, there are still 54 fish stocks that are overfished and/or where overfishing is occurring; and

WHEREAS, ongoing implementation of ecosystem-based management requires more effective consideration of trophic relationships across overlapping jurisdictions, for example, the large reduction of the historic anadromous out-migrating river herring trophic base, along with current or predicted population shifts driven by changing temperatures and acidification; and

WHEREAS, many species are co-managed by federal fisheries management councils or interstate compacts with close engagement of state fish and wildlife agencies, and other federal, state, territorial bodies, and tribal and indigenous bodies; and

WHEREAS, there are some fish stocks managed by these bodies that have not responded favorably to current management approaches, necessitating further harvest reductions. Examples include Atlantic striped bass, herring, bluefish, and Pacific sardines; and

WHEREAS, the data to address these first order issues of habitat loss, extraordinary bycatch, and many issues related to overfishing are available, to effectively address the multi-jurisdictional issues surrounding ecosystems management, additional funding and data on the biology of the species contained in the ecosystem is required. Examples include age, reproductive, migration, and dietary data; and

WHEREAS, populations of other ecologically significant marine life such as horseshoe crabs, diamondback terrapins, North Atlantic right whales, Southern population Pacific orcas, and other species need stronger consideration by fisheries management due to overexploitation, incidental take and bycatch, or failure to account for their importance in the larger ecosystem; and

WHEREAS, well-managed fisheries that actively promote and achieve healthy fish populations are vital to properly functioning marine and estuarine food webs, support sustainable recreational and commercial fishing, birdwatching, outdoor recreation, tourism, whale watching and other activities that drive the economies of coastal communities; and

WHEREAS, a landmark study published in the journal Nature in April of 2020 argues that we can rebuild the world’s marine ecosystems by 2050 with more aggressive action to rebuild and conserve fish stocks and marine life.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation, at its Annual Meeting assembled June 12, 2020, calls upon states, territories, and fisheries management bodies to enhance management of marine species according to the best available science, focusing on instances when:
1. The species plays a critical trophic role in marine ecosystems, including but not limited to being an apex predator or forage base.
2. There is an existing management strategy that does not fully account for the species’ larger role in the ecosystem and or all management jurisdictions involved.
3. Better management of the species provides benefits to coastal communities by providing for the recovery and enhancement of any depleted fish stocks or other marine animals which will in turn benefit recreational and commercial fishing, wildlife watching, and or ecotourism.
4. Engaging in management processes improves outcomes for federal, state and territorial threatened or endangered species or those identified as species of greatest conservation need.
5. Fishing practices including trawling, trapping or gillnetting, or vessel traffic result in incidental take or discarded bycatch of marine species that are listed as threatened, endangered, species of greatest conservation need or that otherwise serve critical ecosystem roles.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation calls upon federal, state, tribal, and territorial fisheries management bodies, government agencies, legislators and Congress to protect species that meet the criteria above by taking actions that include but are not limited to: coordinating comments on fishery management plans, recommending changes in use or design of commercial and recreational fishing gear types to achieve conservation benefits such as reducing negative cumulative impacts and bycatch, managing the species for its role in the ecosystem through ecosystem-based management, limiting take at key spawning and nursery habitats and reducing fishing quotas in line with the best available science.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation calls for Governors, state agencies and legislators to appoint representatives to state and federal fisheries management bodies who represent a conservation interest in restoring public trust marine species and habitats that are managed for multiple benefits, including recreation, science and research and ecological health in addition to economic benefits realized by recreational and commercial fishing interests and supporting industries.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation supports investments in protecting and restoring marine habitat that will benefit fisheries and wildlife including but not limited to: protecting and restoring estuaries and shorelines, rebuilding and protecting oyster reefs where appropriate, protecting and restoring other reefs and critical habitats, and removing unused dams or adding fish passage to dams for anadromous and catadromous species.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation supports working with our partners on significant marine and estuarine fish and wildlife conservation matters of mutual interest.