House of Representatives approve fisheries management act

By: Parimal M. Rohit

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A leading piece of federal legislation governing recreational fishing across the country was approved this month, as members of the House of Representatives voted in favor of amending and renewing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, or MSA. House Resolution 1335 (HR 1335) cleared the lower chamber by a 225-152 vote on June 1.

The current iteration of the MSA reauthorization could be vetoed if it reaches President Barack Obama’s desk, according to the White House.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who was one of the original authors of the MSA when it was adopted in 1976, spearheaded the bill’s renewal by introducing HR 1335, also known as the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.

“Flexibility is a cornerstone of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which promotes regional flexibility recognizing differing ocean conditions, variations in regional fisheries, different harvesting methods and management techniques and distinct community impacts,” Young said. “HR 1335 will provide a number of modest but necessary updates to the Act, including efforts to improve fisheries management flexibility and transparency, improve data collection, create jobs and … provide predictability and certainty to the coastal communities that depend on stable fishing activities.”

The renewed MSA, according to Young’s staff, strikes a balance between environmental conservation and the interests of anglers and coastal communities.

Specifically, the renewed MSA called for anglers, scientists and others to be more transparent, provide fishery managers in “data poor” regions with greater flexibility to rebuild depleted fisheries, increased protection levels of confidential data submitted to regulatory agencies, established a five-fiscal-year appropriations cycle and require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to be more accountable of how the agency collects and uses fees.

HR 1335 also clarified how the MSA would function with other federal statutes.

According to information published by the House Committee on Natural Resources, the original MSA was established to govern fisheries between 3 and 200 miles off the U.S. coast and “promote the conservation and management of U.S. fishery resources, ensure sustainable domestic fisheries can be harvested in federal waters and provide for a thriving domestic seafood industry.”

The original law also established eight regional councils across the country to manage fisheries in federal waters. Young claimed the MSA became outdated and urged their colleagues to update the law to provide for greater transparency and promote regional decision making without increasing spending.

A statement issued by the White House, however, indicated Obama would veto HR 1335.

“The [Obama] administration strongly opposes HR 1335 … because it would impose arbitrary and unnecessary requirements that would harm the environment and the economy. The MSA currently provides the flexibility needed to effectively manage the Nation’s marine commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries. HR 1335 would undermine the use of science-based actions to end and prevent overfishing,” the White House said in a published statement last month. “If the President were presented with HR 1335, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.” White House staff added overfishing is currently at historic lows because of the MSA.

“The current requirements of MSA are working. HR 1335 would interfere with the tremendous success achieved in rebuilding overfished fisheries by setting rebuilding targets that are not based on sound, credible science, and that unnecessarily extend the time to rebuild fisheries,” White House staff said.

Young reportedly countered HR 1335 would make it easier for fisheries to replenish depleted fish stocks by removing a mandatory 10-year rebuilding requirement and instead allowing fishery managers to phase in plans within three years.

Also opposing HR 1335 is The Pew Charitable Trusts. The organization published a statement one week after the White House issued its remarks.

“HR 1335 … would significantly undercut the Nation’s progress in preventing overfishing and rebuilding depleted fish populations. This shortsighted legislation would undermine the act’s core conservation provisions, jeopardizing the gains made in rebuilding and sustainably managing U.S. fish populations. It also would fail to advance a comprehensive approach to fishery management,” the organization stated.

Pew’s entire statement, including its recommendations of how to upgrade the MSA, can be viewed here: goo.gl/H3OvO1.

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