Seafood group wants next Magnuson-Stevens Act to do away with "overfishing"

Published on
February 16, 2018

A consortium of groups with ties to the seafood industry is calling for the U.S. Congress to pass a Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization bill that gives the Regional Fishery Management Councils greater flexibility to achieve their objectives, but they also looking for federal officials to change how a couple of items are termed.

Saving Seafood’s National Coalition for Fishing Communities is asking Congress to do away with the term “overfishing,” claiming it’s not accurate to base a stock’s condition on just its fishing mortality. In its place, the 24-member group wants to new MSA law to call fishstocks “depleted.” They made their recommendation in a letter to U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). 

“The term ‘overfished’ is perceived negatively and can unfairly implicate the industry for stock conditions resulting from other factors,” the group wrote.

Gib Brogan, a campaign manager with Oceana, said the effort behind depleted is an attempt by commercial fishing interests to escape a “negative perception and culpability for the state” of stocks.

“Modern fisheries science already accounts for the ‘other factors’ that may decrease the abundance of fish in the oceans,” Brogan said.  “When these ‘other factors’ have been accounted for in the underlying science, fishing remains as the source of mortality and it is entirely appropriate to keep the focus on fishing by using ‘overfished.’  If these other factors are not being appropriately considered, that should be resolved through the assessment for affected fish stocks, not a blanket change in terminology.”

Along with several other commercial fishing groups, the coalition is also calling for the new act to do away with the 10-year rebuilding requirement and giving the regional councils more flexibility in determining the timeframe needed to bolster stocks. The group also suggests moving from “possible” to “practicable” when it comes to those rebuilding periods.

“The intent of this change is not to compromise or weaken the effectiveness of the MSA, but rather to help better fulfill one of the fundamental and original goals of the Act,” the group said.

The groups also are also asking for language requiring that formal requests for fishery disasters be acted upon by the federal government within 90 days of a request by a governor of the impacted state. Currently, there is no deadline to act upon a request. For example, on 18 January, 2017, then-Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker approved a disaster declaration for nine salmon and crab fisheries in Alaska, California, and Washington nearly a year after the request was made.

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