No one will be holding up former President George W. Bush as an example of a great conservationist—he worked hard to open up public lands to oil and gas drilling, logging and mining and generally opposed environmental interests during his eight years in office. But one of his last presidential acts may stand the test of time as a key move in the conservation of marine ecosystems. Under new rules proposed by the White House and issued on January 15 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just days before Obama's inauguration, the country's eight regional fishery management councils will have to come up with plans to end overfishing altogether by 2010.
Some fishermen already hurt by increasing cutbacks on the amount of fish they are allowed to catch fear that this latest move might put them out of business altogether. Nevertheless, environmentalists praise the Bush move as a necessary evil to save the fisheries themselves.
"Overfishing, the practice of taking fish from the ocean faster than they are capable of reproducing, has plagued U.S. fisheries for generations, and has had profound negative effects on the health of marine ecosystems and coastal communities," said Chris Dorsett of the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy.
"Everyone is in agreement that this a good road map for the Obama administration to end overfishing," Dorsett added. "We've got the law, we've got the guidance, now it is time to put the guidance into effect."