With America's fisheries rebounding, we can't turn back (Opinion)

Jane Lubchenco and Brad Pettinger

In the last 20 years, one of the country's most valuable natural resources has transformed from a national disaster to a great American recovery story. But unless you're a fishery scientist or a fisherman who suffered through the near collapse of a fishery, you've probably never heard the story.

We lived it.

We've been working along the West Coast for 40 years and can attest to the catastrophic collapse of a once massive groundfish fishery. We know fixing it was hard and messy. But we also know that troubled fisheries in the United States and around the world should look to our success and others for lasting solutions.

In the early 2000s, the fishery was in terrible shape. A number of rockfish species were becoming significantly overfished. As long-lived species, their recovery was expected to take decades. Level of discards of "bycatch" -- accidental catch that occurs when fishing for target species - was high. This led to the fishery being declared a 'federal disaster.' Fish, fishermen and the communities that relied on them were suffering, and it was clear that if the system hadn't yet hit rock bottom, it soon would.

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