Seafood Watch program upgrades 21 species of west coast groundfish

Dennis Taylor, MONTEREY HERALD.COM

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program announced Tuesday that it has removed 21 commercially important species of West Coast groundfish from its "Avoid" list, upgrading those species to either "Best Choice" or "Good Alternative."

Among species that have been upgraded are sablefish, rockfish typical sold as "snapper," and popular flatfish species caught by bottom-trawl and other methods.

West Coast groundfish have been regarded as a commercial fishery failure since 2000, when they were declared a federal disaster due to overfishing. The turnaround from "Avoid" status to a sustainable ranking is attributed to management improvements implemented since 2000.

"This is one of the great success stories about ecological and economic recovery of a commercially important fishery," said Margaret Spring, vice president of conservation and science, and chief conservation officer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. "A huge part of the turnaround is reliance on science-based conservation and management practices that Congress endorsed in its 2006 update of U.S. fishery law."

Key factors contributing to fishery improvements that led to the new recommendations include approaches that cut down on the catch of overfished species, use of area closures and creation of marine protected areas to safeguard vulnerable habitat, conservative fishing quotas that take into account uncertainty in the understanding of fish biology and fisheries, accountable catch limits, and better monitoring and control of the catch.

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