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Promoting Sustainable Fisheries and Healthy Ocean Ecosystems

Boats at Port Clyde, Maine, where fishermen are modeling a standard that allows them to continue their fishing tradition, while also allowing the fish stocks to rebound.

Boats at Port Clyde, Maine, where fishermen are modeling a standard that allows them to continue their fishing tradition, while also allowing the fish stocks to rebound.

Photo by Raviya Ismail / Earthjustice

Earthjustice is working to restore our oceans to protect both the extraordinary wildlife that relies on a healthy ocean and the communities around the world whose livelihoods and cultures are inextricably tied to the sea.

The oceans drive our blue economy, but they’re in the red. Up to 80 percent of the world’s commonly fished species have been so overharvested that they’re in danger of disappearing altogether. This unsustainable path must be reversed.

In the current approach to fisheries management, indiscriminate fishing practices overharvest fish, destroy huge amounts of the ocean floor and kill species that aren’t fishing targets, commonly called bycatch. In addition, depleted fish populations aren’t given time to recover, which greatly compounds the problem.

More than 2.6 billion people rely on fish for at least 20 percent of their protein intake, and some 40 million people worldwide are employed directly by the $21 trillion dollar ocean economy.

Earthjustice is promoting sustainable fisheries and healthy ocean ecosystems by:

  1. Pushing federal and state fisheries to adopt an ecosystem-based management plan that protects forage fish, which keystone predators such as tuna, sharks, turtles, whales and seabirds rely upon for sustenance. It also focuses on preserving ecosystem engineers—species that create or maintain habitat for other species, either through building physical structures like a bed of mussels or through suppressing prey abundance, as otters do for urchins that would otherwise deplete kelp forests.
  2. Advocating for improved bycatch monitoring and bycatch reduction, especially in fisheries that target at-risk species such as sharks, swordfish, tuna and forage species.
  3. Tackling the use of harmful fishing gear like gill nets, bottom trawls and longlines, which devastate ocean ecosystems.
  4. Working with fisheries regulators to ensure that managers take into account impacts on fish populations from warming sea temperatures, ocean acidification and sea level rise.