The Senate Commerce Committee, led by
Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Daniel Inouye
(D-HI), today marked up the ?Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2005,? S. 2012, making
significant strides to strengthen the nation?s primary fishery law.
The Marine Fish Conservation Network (Network) commended the Committee for not rolling back existing conservation measures, such as requirements to rebuild depleted fish populations as quickly as possible and ending overfishing. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had pushed for these rollbacks in its Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization proposal submitted to Congress in September.
The Network praised the bill for implementing some of the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP),
including national standards for limited access permit programs (also known as individual fishing quota programs), training programs for fishery management council members, and cooperative research programs
between fishermen and scientists.
?Overall we think this bipartisan bill is moving in a positive direction, and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress to make it even stronger,? said Lee Crockett, executive director of the Network.
Crockett added, ?The bill introduced by Senators Stevens and Inouye implemented a number of the U.S. Commission?s recommendations, and we hope that as the bill moves through the legislative process, the final version will more closely resemble their recommendations.?
In their original bill, Senators Stevens and Inouye had championed the North Pacific Fishery Management Council model of science-based fishery management where overfishing is not allowed. Specifically, the
bill included an important provision requiring fishery managers to set annual limits on the number of fish caught each year. According to the original language, if fishing fleets exceed that annual quota during the course of the their season, then fishery managers were required to take
the amount exceeded out of the annual catch for the following year.
This provision would ensure that overfishing is not allowed. The New England members of the Commerce Committee sought prior to the
markup to weaken the mandatory catch limit requirements due to intense pressure by some influential sectors of the fishing industry in their region. The Committee inserted place-holder language for this provision because the issue remains unresolved.
?It is imperative that the Senate provides meaningful catch limits that end overfishing and allow us to rebuild our stocks, our businesses and our communities,? said Peter Baker, campaign director for the Cape Cod
Commercial Hook Fishermen?s Association.
The Network also advocates for requiring fishery managers to follow the scientific advice given by the region fishery management councils? Science and Statistical Committees. The Commerce Committee included language that suggests, but does not require, that councils follow the scientific advice of independent fishery scientists. ?The Senate Commerce Committee has missed a great opportunity by not requiring fishery managers to base all management decisions on the best available
science as was recommended in the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy report. Pressure from some of the less enlightened fishing industry sectors is leading Senators to follow the New England Council?s failed
management model, rather than the successful North Pacific model of science-based management. Congress should stay the course and keep the North Pacific Council as its model, at least for science, when moving
this legislation forward,? said Gerald Leape, vice president, Marine Conservation at the National Environmental Trust and co-chair of the Network.
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