By Chris Adams

The Magnuson-Stevens Act has been the pillar of U.S. fisheries regulations for more than four decades – and has made substantial strides helping some decimated fish species rebound.

But that only covers fishing in U.S. waters. The U.S. only controls a fraction of the world’s waters, and other countries are far more dependent on fish and seafood for their food supply. That means U.S. regulators must constantly negotiate with other nations in attempts to manage the world’s underwater resources.

In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Steven Murawski described the international seascape – and how effective the U.S. has been in negotiating it. Murawski spent a career in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ending as director of scientific programs. NOAA overseas U.S. fisheries regulations, and Murawski helped write a 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Murawski is now a professor at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science.

Fish worldwide is a major – and vital – industry. World annual seafood production – both wild and farm-raised – is 167.2 million tons, and 20 percent of the world’s population depend on fish as their major source of protein.

And while U.S. fisheries are strictly managed, those in other countries are less so.

Several countries in the world get passing grades in their compliance code for adhering to sustainable fishing practices. In one study, Norway, the United States, Canada and Australia were at the top of the list. But more that half of countries studied had a failing grade on that measure; North Korea and Myanmar were at the bottom of that list.

A lot of the countries that ship fish to U.S. consumers “are really poor actors,” based on sustainable fishing practices, Murawski said.