Several years ago, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization announced that a third of the 200 fisheries they track around the world were depleted or heavily exploited. The slow-growing orange roughy, a deep-sea fish found off the coast of New Zealand and Australia, was fished almost to extinction in about a 10-year period.
On Thursday, October 29, at 7:00 p.m. at the University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies (CMS) in Lewes, fisheries scientist Tim Targett will present “Are We Overfishing Our Marine Fishery Stocks? . . . Hope for the Future,” as the final presentation in the 1998 Ocean Currents Lecture Series initiated by CMS in honor of the International Year of the Ocean. Targett will begin with a global look at overfishing and then focus on the status and management of North American fisheries, with particular emphasis on several species common to Delaware waters, including weakfish, flounder, striped bass, and tautog.
“It was recently estimated that of the 153 marine fisheries tracked by the U.S. Department of Commerce, about 40% are overexploited,” Targett says. “And that results in a 40% reduction in catch. Consider a fishery stock like a bank account,” he says. “If you keep dipping into the principal without rebuilding it, sooner or later you’re going to end up in trouble.”
Fortunately, some overfished stocks can rebound once the fishing pressure on them is relieved. “One major success story is striped bass,” Targett notes. By the early 1980s, this fishery was in serious decline. But strong regulations, including moratoriums in some states to temporarily suspend striped bass fishing, were imposed to protect the fishery. Within about a decade, striped bass made a dramatic comeback.
“With the recent implementation of the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act, the hope for the future is that we should be able to help rebuild other overfished stocks,” Targett says. “With the relatively young age at which some of our most important local fisheries spawn -- at two to three years old for weakfish, for example -- some fisheries have the potential to recover quickly.”
A member of the CMS faculty since 1984, Targett’s research includes pinpointing the optimal feeding, temperature, and habitat requirements of the juvenile stages of important Mid-Atlantic fisheries, such as weakfish, flounder, and tautog. He is Delaware’s representative on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a compact of the coastal states from Maine to Florida, and serves on the commission’s Tautog Management Board and Technical Committee and on the Administrative Oversight Committee.
Targett also is a member of the editorial board of the scientific journal Estuaries. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Maine, his master’s degree in marine biology from the University of Miami, and his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Maine.
Targett’s lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Room 104, Cannon Laboratory, at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes. The hour-long talk will be followed by light refreshments.
While the lecture is free and open to the public, seating is limited and reservations are required. To reserve your seat for Targett’s presentation, please contact the college at (302) 645-4279. For more information about CMS, visit the college’s Web site at www.ocean.udel.edu.