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Study warns pollution, overfishing threaten once rich stocks under the sea

Overfishing and pollution may threaten once-thriving fish populations  

In this story:

Florida called 'hot spot'

Fishermen see the signs

Preserves urged

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- Fishermen have counted for generations on the cold, swirling waters off northern California to provide for their families.

A new study in Fisheries magazine, however, warns that 82 species and subspecies of fish, including many that swim in the waters off North America, may face the threat of future extinction.

For many species, the source of the threat is man himself.

Kate Wing, a policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the time to act is now.

"These are fish that people eat, that people are going to the restaurant and ordering as Pacific snapper or as grouper," Wing said.

Florida named 'hot spot'

The American Fisheries Society has worked for the past 10 years to identify marine fish stocks that may be at risk of extinction in North America. The society's study, printed in this month's issue of Fisheries, for the first time names specific fish considered in danger.

Geographic "hot spots" are identified where assorted species are at risk including Florida's Indian River Lagoon, the Keys and Florida Bay in the southern part of the state.

Other vulnerable areas include Puget Sound and the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Specific fish found to be at potential risk include the once abundant Pacific cod, the Atlantic sturgeon and numerous varieties of rockfish.

Fishermen see the signs

It's not hard to pinpoint blame for the threat: overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction.

Off the coast of Washington, herring have been overfished for years. A skyrocketing sea lion population also has put the species at risk.

In Florida, agricultural pollution and degradation of wetlands have destroyed populations of grouper and other fish.

Fishermen such as Dave Music began noticing a reduction in catch sizes three or four years ago in the seas around San Francisco.

"It was a hundred thousand pounds a month, and now it's down to 25 thousand pounds for two months," he said.

Preserves urged

Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federal of Fishermen, also blames the emerging threat on a failure by man to understand his impact on various specifics.

"We've just simply put too many boats out there, too much pressure on stocks that we had no idea of how much fishing they could sustain," he said.

Scientists say more marine preserves are needed, places where fishing would be off limits. Wing said man needs to give some species a break.

"Closing off areas means that those fish aren't even going to get caught," said Wing. "They can recover. They can sustain themselves in that area."



RELATED STORIES:
Salmon battered by man and nature
October 27, 2000
Earth overdrawn on natural assets
October 24, 2000

RELATED SITES:
American Fisheries Society
WWF International: Forests, climate change, oceans, species, freshwater

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