US Congress delays vote on Magnuson-Stevens Act renewal

Published on
June 28, 2018

U.S. Congress delayed taking action this week on a bill that would reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

H.R. 200, which would have extended the fishery management law until fiscal year 2022, has been held up in Congress by more than two-dozen amendments to the bill. Instead of a vote this week, multiple seafood industry and environmental representatives told Seafoodsource they now expect a vote after the House of Representatives returns from its Fourth of July break. 

At a House Rules Committee hearing regarding the bill on Monday 25 June, lawmakers introduced 27 amendments to it.

What the delay means for the bill's chances remains unclear. However, both the bill's advocates and its opponents will use the time to continue their full court press on lawmakers.

The bill, formally titled the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,” would extend the MSA through the 2022 fiscal year. However, in its current form, it would also make substantial changes to the act. 

Among those who support the bill are members of the East Coast and West Coast of Saving Seafood’s National Coalition for Fishing Communities. They say the bill will create a fisheries management program that is both flexible and conservation-focused.

"We want a Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) that allows for both sustainable fisheries management, and the long-term preservation of our nation's fishing communities," the groups wrote. "We firmly believe that Congress can meet these goals by allowing for more flexibility in management, eliminating arbitrary rebuilding timelines, and adding other reforms that better take into account the complex challenges facing commercial fishermen."

Opponents include conservationists, chefs, seafood processors, and commercial fishermen. They fear the changes may threaten the progress the fishing industry has made since the act was first implemented in 1976.

“The Magnuson-Stevens Act has succeeded in reversing overfishing and bringing back fisheries abundance in the U.S.,” said Whitney Webber, Oceana’s responsible fishing campaign director. “However, H.R. 200 would undo the significant progress we’ve made over the course of decades for the health of America’s fisheries and fishermen. This bill would weaken science-based conservation of U.S. fish populations and increase the risk of overfishing by removing annual catch limits for many species.”

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