Lake Tahoe in winter
More than seventy years ago, commercial fishing in Lake Tahoe was outlawed. The deep, clear lake in the Sierra Nevada had been denuded of its Lahontan cutthroat trout, and state officials have since only allowed recreational fishing.
Now, with interest in eating invasive species on the rise, and with millions of invasive crayfish muddying the lakewaters, commercial fishing of the crustaceans has been instated on Tahoe’s Nevada side. The New York Times has a reporter on the scene, who records the giddiness in the local seafood industry:
In Nevada, made up mostly of desert, the impending availability of a local seafood has made headlines in Reno, less than an hour’s drive northeast. Sierra Gold Seafood, a wholesaler that will sell [a fisherman’s] crayfish, trucks in all its products from hundreds of miles away — everything except the Lake Tahoe crayfish now.
“This is it, man,” said Brandon Crowell, whose family owns Sierra Gold, adding that 40 restaurants and casinos in the Reno area had already put in orders.
A snow crab
If you’ve ever read up on the environmental impact of your eating habits, you know that eating fish can be a dicey prospect. Having been overfished for decades, many wild fish populations are on the brink of disappearing.
A new report from NOAA shows that one attempt to deal with this problem of severely depleted fisheries, the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act of 2006, seems to be helping, at least a little bit. The act states that each year, NOAA must give status updates on all fish populations within 200 miles of the US Coast. If the fisheries are hurting, fishermen must stop catching those fish until their numbers recover. Over the last 11 years, 27 previously precarious fish populations have been announced recovered; this year, the six lucky winners were the haddock in the Gulf of Maine, the Chinook salmon along the coast of Northern California, the snow crab of the Bering Sea, the summer flounder on the mid-Atlantic coast, the coho salmon on the coast of Washington, and the widow rockfish in the Pacific.
Overall, NOAA takes these recoveries as a sign that the law is doing its job; according to a metric called the fish stock sustainability index (FSSI), things have been steadily improving for US fish stocks since 2000. But it’s not necessarily a sign to order snow crab tonight. To be declared recovered, a Pew Environmental Group employee told the NYT’s Green Blog, a fish population only has to reach 40% of the numbers it had historically. That seems pretty far from true recovery.
Image courtesy of nelgdev / flickr