Although commercial fishing may appear to be a relatively simple and straightforward business, the reality is that today’s commercial fishermen must navigate not only fishing waters but an intricate and ever-changing set of laws and procedures at the international, federal, and state levels. For over twenty years, BWFA and our members have taken the initiative to face and work diligently to solve the many issues that have challenged our industry and the resources we depend upon. Listing everything that BWFA has helped accomplish would be near-impossible. However, we are proud for our role in the following achievements:
- North Atlantic Swordfish Recovery: In the early 1990s, the stock of North Atlantic swordfish was estimated to be 58% of its maximum sustainable yield (MSY). Today, this stock is more than fully rebuilt, with a 2009 estimate showing the stock size to be 105% of MSY. BWFA and our members played a key role in this achievement. Please click here to learn more about this outstanding accomplishment.
- Sea Turtle Conservation Research: BWFA plays an important role in ensuring that our fishing methods are as environmentally responsible as possible. Starting in the mid-1990s, increases in the population of loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles led to increased sightings by fishermen. Beginning in 2001, many of our members conducted fishing experiments (developed jointly with government scientists) aimed at reducing interactions with sea turtles. Some of the methods tested as part of this experiment demonstrated a dramatic reduction in interaction rates. These experiments were so successful that fishing using these methods is now mandatory in the United States. In addition, BWFA along with NOAA Fisheries Service has been working to disseminate information on this technique to international fishery managers and foreign longline fishermen. Please click here to learn more about these effective fishing practices.
- Voluntary Research Participation: Working together with marine scientists, BWFA’s members have helped increase our knowledge and understanding of the fish that we catch and their ecosystems. Our members have a long history of participating in voluntary fish tagging and specimen collection programs designed by government and academic scientists. More recently, many of our members have volunteered to conduct experiments to test various hook types. This research could lead to further reductions in the catch of non-target species.
- More Effective Fishery Management Regulations: Throughout our history, BWFA and our members have provided detailed information to fishery managers in an effort to ensure that management measures are both effective and practical. Because our fishery takes place hundreds or even thousands of miles from land, it is important to provide regulators with a fishermen’s perspective so that regulations are workable aboard the deck of boats at sea. Over the years, our staff and members have been appointed to various government advisory panels including the official U.S. Delegation to ICCAT. BWFA continues to encourage our members to actively participate in the public regulatory process, sharing their experiences, suggestions, and expertise with fishery managers.
- Support Congressional Efforts to Improve Relevant Laws: BWFA works closely with elected officials on Capital Hill to educate and advise them on ways to improve conservation and management of marine species. Shortly after we were formed and largely through our efforts, Congress adopted legislation creating a new division of NMFS to regulate Atlantic highly-migratory species (HMS). Before this change, HMS species were jointly regulated by five regional Fishery Management Councils, which was largely ineffective, unproductive, and exceptionally slow. In particular, the change of management authority for North Atlantic swordfish ultimately aided in the recovery of this stock, because international recommendations could be implemented more quickly. Additionally, those being managed have the benefit of a centralized, accessible management office staffed full-time by government regulators, which facilitates better participation in the regulatory process by stakeholders. Under the leadership of our Legislative Consultant, we continue to work with Congress and its Committees to strengthen our nation’s fishing laws.
Even as we recount some of our accomplishments, we know that the future will surely hold more challenges. BWFA will work diligently to develop practical and effective solutions to benefit fishermen, seafood consumers, and the resources we depend upon.