Proposal Renews Key Fishery Act

OCEAN CITY — House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings last week unveiled a draft proposal to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which was set to expire at the end of the year.
The draft proposal is titled Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act and would renew and amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which was last authorized by Congress in 2006 through fiscal year 2013. The act governs the recreational and commercial harvest of fisheries in federal waters.
“This proposal would give regional fishery managers increased flexibility to deal with the complexity of fishery issues and provide economic stability and certainty to fishermen and fishery dependent communities,” said Hastings. “It also would improve data collection and increase transparency so that management decisions are based on sound science and all who are impacted by this law can have an active role in the process.”
Hastings said the revised and renewed Magnuson-Stevens Act would take a more regional approach to fisheries management.
“The Magnuson-Stevens Act has enabled the U.S. to have the best managed fisheries in the world and has been instrumental in providing a framework for allowing regions to address their own unique challenges,” he said. “Yet, as the committee has heard at multiple oversight hearings, many fishermen and coastal communities that depend on healthy fisheries are currently facing challenges, including sudden severe cuts to quotas, rising costs, and restrictive fishing seasons.”
The renewed fisheries management act promises to strike a balance between conservation and a workable quota and catch limit system.
“I believe there are updates to the law that should be considered that will address these concerns and ensure there is a proper balance between the biological needs of fish and the economic needs of fishermen,” said Hastings.
Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) Executive Director Jim Donofrio said the key themes of the draft proposal fall into line with the organization’s ongoing efforts to reform the law on behalf of recreational anglers.
“It’s good to see some additional management flexibility when rebuilding depleted fisheries and setting annual catch levels, but we want to make sure that the language written into this draft will not upset the balance of commerce and conservation,” he said. “RFA has been fairly vocal about the need to amend the federal fisheries law to better represent the interests and needs of the recreational fishing community, but we certainly don’t want to do that at the expense of healthy fisheries either.”