How are we doing? – Fish stocks in trouble

(Editor’s note: The N.C. Progress Board, a group created by state lawmakers to track trends in North Carolina and set goals for the state, issued its first report in December 2001.

(Each week, the Philanthropy Journal spotlights an issue examined in the report. The goals, targets and analysis below are those of the Progress Board.)

GOAL: North Carolina ensures healthy and productive natural resources.

TARGETS:  By 2020, all fish stocks will be classified as viable, recovering or under an approved rebuilding plan.

The “unknown” category will be eliminated.


Fishery-management plans will be developed and adopted for all commercial and recreational fish stocks by 2010.

Coastal-habitat-protection plans will be developed and adopted for all coastal areas by 2010.

North Carolina determines the health of its major coastal fisheries annually by evaluating trends in average length and weight, age, catch and other factors.

The fish stocks are then categorized as viable, recovering, concerned, over-fished or unknown. 

The stock status is used to prioritize development of fishery-management plans that map long-term management strategies for the state’s major fisheries.

Fish stocks decline for three main reasons: over-fishing, habitat loss and declining water quality.

Over-fishing is addressed in the state-fishery-management-plan process, but habitat loss, degradation and poor water quality also jeopardize the health of the fisheries.

Coastal-habitat-protection plans are being developed for the long-term enhancement of coastal fisheries through protection and heightened consideration of fish habitat in resource management decisions.


Percentage of fish stocks classified as viable, recovering or under an approved building plan.

In 1997, the state assessed 36 fish stocks, of which 31 percent were considered viable.

Between 1997 and 1999, stock-status categories and definitions changed and the number of stocks evaluated increased to be more compatible with the federal fisheries management system.

In the 2000 stock-status report, 39 stocks were evaluated, with only 23 percent considered viable. 

The three stocks recently added were all listed as over-fished.

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