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Report says fish off US coasts at risk

Warming and acidic waters endanger stocks

WASHINGTON — Fish stocks off the US coasts, restored to health over the past four decades by cooperation among competing interests and careful management, are threatened anew by warming and increasingly acidic waters, according to a new report and experts who are in Washington this week for a conference on the future of fisheries.

Unlike other threats to fishing grounds, the problems related to global warming cannot be solved area by area, advocates say.

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‘‘What we need to pay greater attention to is a changing world and a changing climate and what repercussions that will have,’’ said Chris Dorsett, director of the Ocean Conservancy’s fish conservation and gulf restoration program.

The report, released by the Ocean Conservancy and the Pew Charitable Trusts, hails the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and subsequent amendments for bringing commercial and recreational fishermen, marine scientists, and legislators together to ensure that fish populations would be sustained.

As Congress approaches another reauthorization of the law, the report says that salmon, scallop, and other sea life populations have been brought back from the brink of collapse to a healthy and sustainable state, largely through enforced catch limits.

The ‘‘domestic harvest, export, distribution, and retailing of seafood in America . . . generates more than $116 billion in sales and employs more than 1 million people,’’ according to the report. ‘‘Recreational fishing adds nearly $50 billion and more than 327,000 jobs to that total.’’

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees fisheries management, is hosting this week’s conference, which begins Tuesday.

NOAA spokeswoman Connie Barclay said Sam Rauch, the acting administrator for the fisheries division, had not read the report but said, ‘‘We welcome stakeholders’ input as we move toward reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.’’

The law was most recently reauthorized in 2006 and is set to expire at the end of September.

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