Fishing For Change

2017-09-18T10:19:04+00:00 September 18, 2017|
Red snapper (Credit: Wikimedia commons)

(click to enlarge) Red snapper (Credit: Wikimedia commons)

What It Was

The Senate Science, Commerce, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a third hearing on the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act reauthorization on Tuesday titled “Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: Oversight of Fisheries Management Successes and Challenges.”

Why It Matters

The MSA is the nation’s primary law to regulate commercial and recreational fisheries, and its most recent authorization expired in 2013. Despite agreement that the MSA has rebuilt numerous U.S. fish stocks and decreased overfishing, there are differing opinions on how to improve the MSA during this reauthorization.

Key Points

A general consensus existed among witnesses that there needs to be flexibility in the law that takes region into account. As Chairman Dan Sullivan (AK) stated, “What works in one region does not work in another.”

A bulk of the discussion centered around the red snapper fishery, specifically the recent short season (72 hours) for recreational fishermen and the impacts that had on fishing gear sales and enjoyment. While some felt that this limitation was not justified, others touted the science behind the decision and the need to focus on stable and abundant fish populations.

Terminology was another topic of focus, with the proposal to replace “depleted” with the currently-used “overfished.” For some, “overfished” seems an inaccurate description of the current state of the population, while others argued it confuses the distinction between “overfished” and “overfishing.”

Another suggestion was to examine the blanket 10-year stock rebuilding timeline. Some witnesses argued it was an arbitrary number –for some species the length of stock rebuilding time would be less and for others it would take longer.

Chairman Sullivan and Ranking Member Gary Peters (MI) challenged the eight witnesses to think of one or two ways Congress can improve the nation’s fisheries management with this reauthorization. Several suggested the need for real-time or more immediate data collection and even recommended the use of reporting apps for recreational fishers.


“We need more tools in the toolbox that are more appropriate for recreational fisheries.” – Chris Horton, Senior Director, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation

“We have a chance to secure healthy marine environments for generations to come. The fishermen I know want MSA to be more robust. They aren’t interested in removing annual catch limits and they know that “flexibility” is a euphemism for overharvest. They are also keenly aware that state management would remove many of the safeguards in MSA and open the door to overfishing.” – Anthony Friedrich, Saltwater Angler.

“Congress must be made to realize that managing fisheries requires a balance between resource conservation and economic considerations. Quite simply, while the system under the current provisions in the MSA has been successful in rebuilding some key fish stocks it has been a dismal failure at translating that success into socioeconomic benefits to fishermen and the recreational fishing industry. It is unnecessarily costing the nation thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in lost economic opportunity.” –Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance

“Bristol Bay supports a salmon fishery that is the economic and cultural foundation of Bristol Bay. The Magnuson Stevens Act, by allowing cooperative management between the federal and state governments, has played a prominent role in the successful management of that resource. As a result, this year, like many years in the past, tens of millions of fish returned to the Bay and were available for harvesting by the region’s fishermen.” – Peter Andrew, Board Member, Bristol Bay Native Corporation

“Generally, we believe the preferred solution for many of these place-based conservation issues is a collaborative MSA-driven process that provides clear, justifiable science-based conservation benefits while ensuring future commercial fishing access. Our preferred option for protecting sensitive habitat areas is through the established MSA process.” – Greg DiDomenico, Garden State Seafood Association

Next Steps

The committee will proceed with the reauthorization process, taking testimonies from dozens of experts from all three hearings into consideration.

Find Out More

Watch the hearing

NOAA information about the Magnuson Stevens Act

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

Related Coverage From The Consortium For Ocean Leadership

Senator Sullivan Presses To Re-Approve Law Governing Federal Fisheries

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

House Fishes For Improvements To Magnuson-Stevens Act

Magnuson-Stevens Act At 40: Successes, Challenges And The Path Forward

A Snappy Debate On Red Snapper