US Representative Jared Huffman files bill to reauthorize Magnuson-Stevens Act

U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (D-California) at a listening session in advance of his introduction of a bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California) announced on Monday 26 July, 2021, that he introduced a reauthorization bill for the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal law that oversees fishery management in the United States.

In a statement, Huffman said it’s time for a new reauthorization of the landmark legislation because of changes within the industry and the challenges it faces.

“We know that the MSA has worked well, but new approaches are needed in this era of climate change, new technologies, evolving science needs, and increasing ocean use,” said Rep. Huffman. “Through our stakeholder-driven, science-based approach, we have crafted legislation that rises to the challenges of the 21st century and includes critical updates to this landmark law. With the ‘Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act,’ we can strengthen fishing communities and ensure a high standard of sustainable fisheries management continues well into the future.”

The filing of the bill comes about seven months after Huffman and U.S. Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) released a draft version of the reauthorization bill. That came after Huffman held a series of stakeholder sessions across the country, with the information from those meetings used to develop the draft.

Once that draft was released, Huffman – who serves as the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife – said he then received additional feedback from more than 50 groups and individuals, as well as from other House members.

Among the changes made since the draft is the removal of a requirement to reinstitute the National Seafood Council, over the wishes of more than 60 seafood-related organizations, which sent a letter to Congress in May asking for its resurrection. In its place, the bill now calls for the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to work with the NOAA Administrator on a way to expand the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s outreach regarding the Agricultural Marketing Service to the fishing industry.

The bill also calls for NOAA to consider “innovative technology” to complement or in some cases replace on-board observers.

The law was first passed 45 years ago, with reauthorizations passed in 1996 and 2006. Authorization of appropriations tied to the 2006 bill ended in 2013, but the law remained in effect as lawmakers continued to set aside funding for it on an ad-hoc basis.

In the interim, there have been a number of bills filed to reauthorize the bill, but none have become law.

In a statement, a group of ocean conservation organizations said the bill represents a step forward toward protecting fisheries and the local economies that depend on them. Those groups are: Earthjustice, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, Ocean Conservancy, and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

“From destructive climate disruptions, to declining fish populations, our fisheries are facing unprecedented challenges that warrant bold action,” the groups said. “This legislation takes a science-based approach and provides new tools that will help us tackle the biggest threats to our nation’s fisheries and the communities that rely on them.”

In his own statement, Case said fishery reforms have been needed for a long time and will help ensure trust in the fishery councils.

“This reauthorization provides critical updates to ensure the long-term sustainability of our fisheries by integrating climate change as a critical consideration,” he said. “I’m especially pleased that this bill includes significant reforms to promote accountability, transparency, and representation for our nation’s fisheries management councils. These councils are charged with the stewardship of our fisheries, a precious natural resource that all Americans have a vital interest in protecting for long-term sustainability.”

Photo courtesy of National Fisherman


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