Vibrant Ocean Ecosystems

Sea turtle

Our Oceans Face Many Threats

Our oceans connect, sustain, and inspire us not only in the U.S., but also around the globe. Yet, our oceans face multiple threats everyday. From pollution, to increasing acidification, to warming water temperatures, they are becoming progressively out of balance.

Fishing without appropriate management can create significant problems for our oceans. Catch limits that are too high or nonexistent can lead to declining – or even collapsing – fish populations. Some types of fishing gear can destroy crucial habitat juvenile fish use to hide from predators in order to survive. Other gear increases the likelihood that untargeted wildlife, including endangered turtles and seabirds, inadvertently get caught and die on lines or in nets.

All Fish Play Important Roles in Our Ocean Ecosystems

Reef Fish

Reef Fish

Top predators, such as sharks, tuna, and swordfish keep natural systems in balance, while smaller “forage” fish such as sardines, herring, anchovy, mackerel, or menhaden, provide energy as prey that gets transmitted throughout the food web. Although fishing affects the entire ocean ecosystem, conservation-based management of ocean fisheries will help natural systems stay healthy and in balance.

For example, fishery management decisions should take into account the needs of other wildlife that rely on the targeted fish as prey. Managers must also rely on best available scientific recommendations to determine how many top predators are safe to remove without creating a ripple effect throughout the food web.

The good news is that we can keep on fishing as long as we responsibly manage this natural resource. The U.S. has taken a leadership role in implementing science-based fisheries management with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and we must continue along this successful path to maintain healthy oceans and productive fisheries.

Our environmental conservation and aquaria partners serve as the one of the voices of ocean ecosystems to ensure that their needs are incorporated into our national fisheries policy. Learn more about important issues affect ocean health from our local, regional, and national environmental partners.