Fisheries Managers And Senate Committee Trawl For Magnuson-Stevens Act Updates

2017-08-07T16:25:26+00:00 August 7, 2017|
A Maine lobster. (Credit: Maine Lobster)

(Click to lenlarge) A Maine lobster. (Credit: Maine Lobster)

What It Was

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing titled, “Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: NOAA and Council Perspectives.”

Why It Matters

Despite broad agreement that the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) has worked incredibly well – currently, 90 percent of U.S. stocks fall below their annual catch limits, making the U.S. a world leader in fisheries management – there was disagreement on how to update the law to make it as effective as possible.

Key Points

Committee members and witnesses supported fisheries management, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, and the regional management council system.

Disagreement occurred over how fisheries management is implemented, with critics saying they do not maximize sustainable yields (leading to lower incomes for fishers), while supporters worry relaxing federal regulations could lead to overfishing and economic loss.  

“Flexibility” and “data” came up repeatedly. Flexibility refers to the ability of state-level managers to make regionally-based decisions. Witnesses emphasized the need for increased monitoring and data for improved population and catch estimates.

Senator Ed Markey (MA) expressed specific concern regarding the effects of warming waters and ocean acidification on fisheries.

Senator Cory Booker (NJ) focused on the need to strengthen existing bycatch provisions.

Quotable

“We’re here to reauthorize the Magnuson Act, not to repeal it. So much of the aspects are working well, so we’re here to tweak it.” – Dr. John Quinn (Chair, Council Coordination Committee and Northeast Fishery Management Council).

Current annual catch limits have created a “seafood deficit.” “We can have it both ways” by maximizing catch limits without compromising sustainability.  – Mr. Christopher Oliver (Assistant Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), NOAA) 

Reauthorization of the MSA is “long overdue.” – Subcommittee Chairman Dan Sullivan (AK)

Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT) insisted there is “a need for sweeping, radical, immediate change” to the MSA.

Next Steps

This hearing was one in a series to guide the reauthorization of the MSA (previously reauthorized in 1996 and 2007).  The next Senate committee action will be a full committee field hearing in Soldotna, Alaska on August 23. 

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

Witness Testimonies:

  • Mr. Christopher Oliver (Assistant Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
  • Dr. John Quinn (Chair, Council Coordination Committee and Northeast Fishery Management Council)

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership:

NOAA information about the Magnuson Stevens Act 

Full Text: Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006