MSA reauthorization passes initial vote in US House
The U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife has passed H.R. 4690, the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act, the latest attempt to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).
The bill was approved by the committee on Thursday, 29 September, in a party-line vote. U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas), the committee's ranking Republican member, and his fellow Republicans on the committee opposed the bill, citing objections from fishing, seafood, retail, and foodservice industry groups.
The MSA was last updated 16 years ago, and U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California) has led an initiative over the past two years to reauthorize it. Huffman began his effort with a series of town halls in 2019 before submitting a draft to reauthorize the MSA in 2020, which failed, suffering a similar fate as multiple previous attempts to pass some form of MSA reauthorization.
The newest bill is the result of years of work and contains new amendments to the original MSA to make U.S. fisheries more prepared for the future as new economic and environmental factors, such as climate change, take hold, Huffman said during the committee meeting.
However, the National Fisheries Institute, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation, National Council of Chain Restaurants, and over 150 fishing companies have come out in opposition to Huffman's bill.
Environmental groups immediately reacted to the passage, praising the new amendments to the bill as improvements to the MSA.
“The Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act contains crucial measures to enhance science-based fisheries management, support community-based fishing, and strengthen our economically important working waterfronts,” Marine Fish Conservation Network Executive Director Robert C. Vandermark said in a release.
Five leading ocean conservation nonprofits – Earthjustice, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy, and Oceana – also applauded H.R.4690 making it past the committee stage.
“While the Magnuson-Stevens Act is one of the most important tools for conserving U.S. fisheries, it has not been updated since 2007 and does not currently mention climate change. The Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act takes major steps to ensure fisheries and coastal communities are resilient in the face of the climate crisis,” the five groups said in a joint statement. “From warming waters, to declining fish populations, our fisheries and the economies they sustain are up against significant threats to their future viability. This legislation provides new science-based tools to strengthen core conservation provisions and sustainable management so that communities can count on having resilient and abundant fisheries for years to come.”
Photo courtesy of U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife