Changes in the environment, including warming waters, are prompting the U.S. government to add eight populations of fish — including three populations of coho salmon in Washington state — to its federal overfished list, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
The annual Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries issued Friday said two populations of chinook salmon, including those in the Columbia River basin, and three populations of coho salmon — in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, off the Washington coast near Queets and near Snohomish in Puget Sound — will be added to the list. The agency is also adding Atlantic big eye tuna, Atlantic mackerel of the Gulf of Maine and Cape Hatteras and blue king crab of Saint Matthew Island, Alaska, to the list.
NOAA adds fish stocks to the overfished list when their populations become too low. That prompts rebuilding efforts by management councils and can result in restrictions to commercial fishing.
Environmental changes, habitat degradation and international fishing pressure contributed to the fall in the eight stocks, NOAA said in a statement. The coho salmon stocks, for example, are located in Washington state, where warmer water, drought or degraded habitat made it more difficult to spawn.
“The change in environmental conditions really affects stocks like salmon,” said Alan Risenhoover, director of NOAA’s Office of Sustainable Fisheries.
Warm water conditions could also be affecting the growth of the Saint Matthew Island blue king crab, NOAA said. Chinook and coho salmon have also been affected by drought and lack of enough water for spawning.
NOAA said the vast majority of fish stocks in the U.S. remain at sustainable levels. Less than 18 percent of the stocks for which NOAA has determined a status are considered overfished.
The agency also keeps a list of stocks that have been rebuilt, and the number increased from 44 to 45 last year with the addition of Gulf of Maine smooth skate.