Examining the 10-Year Rebuilding Dilemma for U.S. Fish Stocks
Worldwide, fishery managers strive to maintain fish stocks at or above levels that produce maximum sustainable yields, and to rebuild overexploited stocks that can no longer support such yields. In the United States, rebuilding overexploited stocks is a contentious issue, where most stocks are mandated to rebuild in as short a time as possible, and in a time period not to exceed 10 years. Opponents of such mandates and related guidance argue that rebuilding requirements are arbitrary, and create discontinuities in the time and fishing effort allowed for stocks to rebuild due to differences in productivity. Proponents, however, highlight how these mandates and guidance were needed to curtail the continued overexploitation of these stocks by setting firm deadlines on rebuilding. Here we evaluate the statements made by opponents and proponents of the 10-year rebuilding mandate and related guidance to determine whether such points are technically accurate using a simple population dynamics model and a database of U.S. fish stocks to parameterize the model. We also offer solutions to many of the issues surrounding this mandate and its implementation by recommending some fishing mortality based frameworks, which meet the intent of the 10-year rebuilding requirement while also providing more flexibility.