Most seafood certification and ratings programs for U.S. fisheries are based on scientific data and monitoring provided by the federal government through NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), also known as NOAA Fisheries. This agency is the leading U.S. authority on marine fisheries science and management. NOAA Fisheries manages over 500 stocks under 10 National Standards that include minimizing bycatch, protecting marine habitats, and setting appropriate annual harvest levels based on scientific assessments and surveys. As a result, U.S. fisheries are among the most sustainable in the world.
NOAA Fisheries measures the sustainability of the Nation’s fisheries through the Fish Stock Sustainability Index (FSSI). The FSSI tracks the status of rebuilding and maintaining 230 commercially and recreationally important stocks and complexes. The index incorporates critical components of managing fisheries - controlling harvest rates, maintaining population size, and increasing knowledge about the status of fish stocks and complexes.The FSSI is calculated by assigning a score for each fish stock or complex based on the five criteria below. A fish stock or complex “earns” points when we know its status and when that status is at or above a certain level deemed optimal for the stock. The score increases as additional assessments are conducted, overfishing is ended, and stocks rebuild to the level that provides maximum sustainable yield for the fishery (BMSY, the largest amount of catch the resource can sustain). The FSSI has improved by over 60% since 2000 and quarterly updates are provided. More information on the FSSI is available online.
Refers to the rate of fishing. Overfishing occurs when the rate of removal from a stock is too high, i.e. more fish are being taken from the stock such that the remaining stock can't self-replenish. A priority for the U.S. is ending overfishing so that all stocks have continuous self-sustaining populations.
Refers to a population stock that is too low to replenish itself and requires a change in management practices to rebuild. In the U.S., overfished stocks are required to be managed under rebuidling plans that, over time, will return the stock to a prescribed threshold.
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