The Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI) and other interested parties are testifying about proposed changes to the Magnuson Stevens Act on 4 February in Washington, DC.

The House Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing on the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act, which will improve and strengthen many provisions of the Magnuson Stevens Act.

GSI wants to ensure that federal government uses caution in turning over management of the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf states. The organization also believes the federal government should provide increased flexibility in establishing annual catch limits and provide flexibility in timelines for rebuilding fisheries.

“We are cautious about the states managing the snapper fishery. The charter fishery has to be considered, and the Magnuson Stevens Act has to be adhered to. The states cannot overharvest the fishery,” Harlon Pearce, GSI chairman, told SeafoodSource.

The GSI also believes that timelines for rebuilding fisheries must be relaxed to enhance flexibility for fishery managers.

“We are trying to be flexible and give each user group a say in how they are going to account for their fish, and then enact that. We are seeing the use of fish tags as a way to accomplish that goal,” David Krebs, a Florida board member of the GSI and owner of wholesaler Ariel Seafood in Destin, Fla., told SeafoodSource. Krebs (pictured) will testify at the House Natural Resources Committee hearing.

In the case of red snapper, massive discards are affecting the timeline for rebuilding the fishery. “They have not taken recreational fish discarded into account. Discard mortality has become an important part of the puzzle,” Krebs said.

In addition, better science is needed to establish catch limits and fisheries rebuilding timelines, according to GSI. “The ultimate goal is to rebuild the fisheries and consider the biological side of the fishery: what species it is, how fast it grows, and other factors, rather than just doing a stock assessment,” Krebs said.

Another GSI recommendation is that monies collected from marine enforcement actions and permitting fees should stay within the region in which they were collected and not be transmitted to the general fund.

In addition, strict accountability measures should be established for science and statistical councils, according to GSI.

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