A third of the nation's marine fish species are "overfished" or approaching an overfished condition, according to a new report from the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The report said 96 marine fish species are at or are approaching an overfished condition, while another 183 species have not been overfished.
It examined the condition of fish species in federal waters, which extend from three to 200 miles off shore.
The report was required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act which governs fisheries in federal waters. The bill, approved by Congress last year, requires NMFS to annually report on the status of fisheries in federal waters.
The report says the number of "overfished" species will probably increase the next few years as future reports begin incorporating new, stricter definitions for assessing the status of fish stocks. This will probably mean that the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils responsible for developing fishery management plans for species in federal waters will have to tighten regulations for many species.
"We expect that the eight regional councils responsible for managing these fisheries will begin to prepare rebuilding plans that will ultimately improve the stocks and provide more fish for consumers and recreational fishermen," said Terry Garcia, acting assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, in a statement accompanying the report.
Rebuilding programs must be as short as possible, but not exceed 10 years, except in cases where the biology of the stock, or environmental conditions, or management measures under an international agreement in which the United States participates dictate otherwise.
Among Bay species listed as overfished in the report were summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, bluefish and red drum.
Any action stemming from the report will not affect catches in the Bay.
Species within three miles of the coast are managed by the states and by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission which represents all East Coast jurisdictions. State and ASMFC management plans already recognize those species as overfished, except for scup which is not a major Bay fishery.