Fishing industries laud Young’s MSA reauthorization bill


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
June 3, 2015

While environmental groups may be displeased with the bill the U.S. House of Representatives passed on Monday to renew the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), much of the commercial and recreational fishing communities believe the new legislation addresses key issues the previous iteration of the MSA did not.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and supporters of his bill — H.R. 1335, or the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act — argued that the nation’s primary fishery management regime, while successful on many fronts, lacked the flexibility to allow certain fisheries more time to rebuild than the standard 10 years the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service requires.

The majority of the commercial fishing industry believe that restrictions from such a tight time frame are particularly acute when evaluating fish species whose biological patterns don’t allow for a quick rebuild, or when species belong to mixed-stock fisheries, like the Northeast groundfish (cod, haddock, flounder) fishery.

Rod Moore, executive director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association in Portland, Ore., told SeafoodSource on Wednesday that the nation’s fishery management councils need the ability to take extreme economic uncertainties into account when making fishery management decisions.

“There needs to be some means of looking at the totality of the situation when deciding on a rebuilding plan,” he said. “The councils need to have a little leeway in what they do.”

Greg DiDomenico, executive director of the Garden State (New Jersey) Seafood Association, said the MSA needed updates in several regards. Stock rebuilding requirements should be limited in scope and remain carefully defined, he said, and mixed stock exceptions are necessary to ensure ecosystem principles are being adhered to.

“We support the ability to adjust a management action that would avoid economic hardship while still being able to achieve the rebuilding and recovery of a species. The fish stock would reach the same desirable level but those in the fishery would not be devastated economically,” he said. “We support prudent reform that is science-based and considers the impacts of management actions on all fishermen, the fishing communities and the fish.”

Recreational fishing interests feel that the bill’s provisions to provide limited exceptions for annual catch limits and the involvement of anglers in providing data to fishery managers are necessary improvements. Ben Speciale, president of the Yamaha Marine Group, called the bill’s passage a “significant victory.” Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, said recreational saltwater fishing contributes USD 70 billion annually to the nation’s economy and supports 454,000 jobs.

The bill goes to the U.S. Senate for its approval. Moore said he does not expect final legislation to be signed into law until this fall, at the earliest. The bill, which must be reauthorized every seven years, has not been reauthorized since January 2007.

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