CMC Report finds oceans overfished, overpolluted, and underprotected

provided by Center for Marine Conservation

he Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) has issued its first-ever report to the nation on the health of America's oceans. This comprehensive report provides a baseline of the condition of our oceans while beginning to lay out a set of health indicators, one in each of the four key areas covered in the report ocean waters, marine wildlife, fish and fishing, and ocean ecosystems.

"Our oceans should be a national priority," said Vice Admiral Roger Rufe, CMC president. "CMC will issue the Health of the Oceans report every year so that American citizens and their leaders can start talking about the oceans and work toward measurable progress to improve their health."

The Health of the Oceans report this year says that nearly 40 to 45 percent of our waters are not suitable for fishing or swimming. In California in 1998, beaches were closed for more than 3,000 days because the water was contaminated. The report also finds that the number-one source of poor coastal water quality is polluted runoff, such as pesticides, fertilizers, and animal waste. In addition, nearly one-half of the assessed US marine fish populations are overfished and thousands of marine animals are injured or killed by litter and marine debris.

But the news is not all negative. The report finds certain fish populations on the rebound and the Center's annual beach cleanup, the International Coastal Cleanup, helps reduce millions of pounds of marine debris each year.

"Consumers should be aware that a number of the popular fish that they find on their local menus and in neighborhood markets are overfished. Species like red snapper, shrimp, orange roughy, and shark are all in danger," said Rufe. "This report outlines specific steps that citizens can take both to reduce their contribution to ocean contamination and overfishing, and to advocate for government actions that are necessary to turn the tide on these issues."

In addition, the report outlines specific steps that the federal, state and local governments can and must take in order to improve ocean health. Those steps include:


  • Strengthen the Clean Water Act to reduce polluted runoff;
  • Pass the Beach bill to measure pollution in waters off public beaches nationwide;
  • Overhaul the nation's fishery management councils so they include a more balanced representation of citizens, fishers, scientists and conservationists;
  • Strengthen US marine mammal and endangered species laws to protect endangered and threatened wildlife;
  • Establish special ocean places where fishing is banned to protect ocean ecosystems and allow fish populations to replenish themselves;
  • Establish "no-take reserves" and other protected areas within state waters; and,
  • Adopt local programs to prevent and mitigate wetland losses, and prohibit the construction of sea walls and coastal armoring projects that destroy beaches.

The report also details how pollution - everything from trash to agricultural runoff is threatening the entire ecosystem. And the report finds that local, state and federal officials are not devoting the money or personnel necessary to restore our oceans.

The 2001 report will include a comprehensive set of indicators to measure progress in improving fish and wildlife populations, reducing pollution, and protecting aquatic ecosystems.

"Next year, we will be able to measure our progress - or any setbacks against this report, and then set goals for individuals and policymakers," said Rufe. "Clear and specific goals will help us to quickly identify problems needing immediate action and lead to cleaner, healthier oceans with plenty of fish and healthy habitat."

The report is available at

Through science-based advocacy, research, and public education, the Center for Marine Conservation informs, inspires, and empowers people to speak and act for the oceans in order to protect ocean ecosystems and conserve the global abundance and diversity of marine wildlife. Headquartered in Washington, DC, CMC has a local pollution prevention coordinator: Donna Frye. You can email her at:, call: (619) 688-9886.