EarthLabs > Fisheries > Lab 5: Gone Fishing > 5C: Gone Today, Here Tomorrow?

Gone Fishing

Part C: Gone Today, Here Tomorrow?

Georges Bank and surrounding areas with a long history of abundance have seen fish stock depletion and collapse of the fisheries. To speed stock recovery, parts of the area have been closed to fishing as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), shown as dark blue polygons. Map courtesy of NOAA Fisheries Service.

Any stock that has previously been listed, or is currently listed, as overfished is required to have a rebuilding program until the stock has been rebuilt to levels consistent with supporting MSY on a sustainable basis. In many locations, such as Georges Bank, this rebuilding plan includes the establishment of Marine Protected Areas.

  1. Read the WWF article, Protecting Fish and Fishermen: Marine Reserves in the United States Demonstrate Major Benefits to Fisheries.

    Checking In

    • What actions were taken to rebuild Georges Bank groundfish stocks in 1994?
      Three large areas totaling 17,000 km2 were closed to fishing for groundfish. Fishing gear that might catch groundfish incidentally or damage habitats were also prohibited, but other forms of fishing such as long-lining were allowed to continue. Additional fishery management measures such as groundfish fishing permit limitation, increase of trawl mesh size and reduction of groundfish fishing time were applied in the reserve.
    • How were fishing zone closures enforced?
      Local fishing vessels were equipped with satellite monitoring systems to collect information about their location. This data was monitored and used by the National Marine Fisheries Service to verify that vessels stayed outside the area boundaries. The results were positive and showed that the boundaries were respected by the fishermen.
    • How did groundfish species respond to protection?
      After five years of protection, the closed areas proved a major success for groundfish populations. Stocks of haddock and flounder in particular showed rapid recovery from overfishing. Cod population have responded more slowly, but biomass is increasing as well, and cod fishermen are now receiving the benefits of the closure.
    • Besides the groundfish species targeted for rebuilding, what other species were effected by the closure of Georges Bank fishing grounds?
      The most dramatic effect of the closures was on scallops. Scallops rebounded after five years of protection reaching 9 to 14 times the density of legal size scallops in fished areas.
  2. The article you read was written in 2003 and references Georges Bank fisheries data only through 2001. Examine the combined landings and biomass graphs below, which include data through 2005.

    Graph courtesy of NOAA.
    GOM = Gulf of Maine; GB = Georges Bank. Graph courtesy of NOAA.

    Stop and Think

    1:Describe the trends in annual landings and biomass for Georges Bank haddock and Atlantic cod since 1994.

    2:Do you think the 1994 closures had long-term success for both species or do you think additional measures need to be taken to ensure the sustainability of Georges Bank groundfish? Explain.

  3. Both haddock and Atlantic cod continue to be overfished in Georges Bank and cod continues to be subject to overfishing. To learn more about the sustainability of Atlantic cod and important dates and events in Atlantic cod management, visit the Atlantic Cod profile at the NOAA Fishwatch website.