Steven D. Gaines, dean of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California at Santa Barbara, said researchers are developing more effective tools to estimate fish populations, by looking at the size of the fish and how fish are faring inside and outside marine reserves. “It’s really transforming the opportunity for us to assess where the fisheries are at the moment and take corrective action early on to correct overfishing,” he said.
Even when NOAA receives fresh data, the agency often comes under fire for finding a population is doing much better or worse than expected.
Just this year, for example, NOAA determined the amount of cod in the Gulf of Maine had declined roughly two-thirds since 2008. Local fishing interests and area lawmakers, including Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), have assailed the assessment and warned NOAA against setting cod limits too low this year. The current cod catch limit is 12,000 metric tons; because the recent assessment says that only 11,400 metric tons are left, Kerry wrote, it “could require a fishing limit as low as 1,000 metric tons of cod.”