Peltola's FISH Act includes study of government programs' impact on domestic seafood production

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska)
U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) | Photo courtesy of the Office of Mary Peltola
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A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) aims to create a fisheries resilience program and order a government study on U.S. seafood competitiveness in international markets.

According to Peltola’s office, the Fisheries Improvement and Seafood Health (FISH) Act would establish a Fisheries and Ecological Resilience Program that would coordinate data collection, introduce innovative management tools, and foster collaboration across agencies and regional fishery management councils. The bill would also task the Government Accountability Office with conducting a study on how competitive U.S. seafood is in international markets and how federal programs are impacting domestic seafood production.

“Seafood plays an important role in providing jobs, food, and economic benefits in Alaska, but federal law hasn't kept up,” Peltola said. “Now, Russia and China are flooding the market with cheap fish produced using forced labor and poor environmental standards. Alaska fishing families know all too well that federal law overseeing our fish is almost 20 years out of date; we have to address overfishing and new challenges before things get worse.”

Peltola’s office said these updates are necessary because “fish stocks face new pressures and stressors that were not considered” when the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) – the main law governing U.S. fisheries – was reauthorized nearly two decades ago.

The MSA has not been updated since 2006, despite multiple efforts to reauthorize the legislation over the years. In June, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill to reauthorize the MSA, but that effort could be complicated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the Chevron deference, which will have major ramifications on how NOAA Fisheries can implement congressional statutes.

“I think we’re all trying to assess what this Supreme Court decision means for federal fisheries management. So much of it depends on regulations and things that happen on the implementation side by people other than Congress," U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California) told SeafoodSource. “So, that is probably yet another reason why we need to get Magnuson reauthorized and, if necessary, clean up any gaps created by this new ruling.”

Peltola is one of the lawmakers behind the latest MSA reauthorization push, but in 2023, she expressed skepticism as to whether Congress could achieve its passage.

“Everybody recognizes that there's a very slim chance that Magnuson-Stevens will be authorized this year [with] this Congress,” Peltola said in an interview with Ocean Strategies in October 2023.

According to Peltola’s office, the provisions in the FISH Act are taken from previous MSA reauthorization attempts.

“[The FISH Act] does not seek to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act or make significant changes to the fishery-management process. Instead, it aims to enhance and modernize fisheries policies through a targeted approach, fostering a bipartisan movement in support of sustainable fisheries,” Peltola’s office noted in a summary of the bill.

The Marine Fish Conservation Network, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance have come out in support of the FISH Act. According to  EDF, the bill will provide a sustainable path for NOAA’s Climate, Ecosystems, and Fisheries Initiative an effort to build a system for sharing climate-related information with appropriate decision-makers. 

“The FISH Act will ensure our fisheries are ready for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow,” EDF Vice President for Political Affairs Joanna Slaney said. “Through investments in our fishery data systems, improved stakeholder engagement, and effective collaboration, we can better prepare our fisheries to adapt to changing conditions, ensuring resilient fishing communities and healthy oceans for generations to come.”

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