Earlier this week, the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing to examine the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Act’s (MSA) successes, challenges, and opportunities in light of the 40th anniversary of the enactment of our nation’s preeminent fisheries law.
Given that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is currently revising a cornerstone of MSA implementation that prevents overfishing, this hearing focused on that rulemaking and whether there was a need for any revisions to the MSA. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs at NOAA Fisheries, reported to the Subcommittee on the progress and management of several fisheries issues, including the current state of salmon hatcheries. One of the topics of concern that was discussed related to salmon hatcheries was that NOAA had only reviewed 52 improvement plans for salmon hatchery systems. While Mr. Rauch expressed concern about the status of the current hatchery systems, he also referenced recent improvements in hatchery requirements that would help guarantee facilities are operated at the highest levels of efficiency, acknowledging that “hatcheries are key for economic viability” of the salmon fishery. He did point out that while NOAA Fisheries has received 328 plans for review, they “all came in at the same time” and staff are “having trouble [processing] all of them” in a timely fashion. Budget and corresponding staff constraints were listed as the main reasons for the slow progress.
While there are many issues that remain before we can achieve the complete sustainability of all U.S. fisheries, the MSA is credited with helping successfully manage many U.S. fisheries since its implementation 40 years ago, including the salmon fishery on the west coast, and will continue to help for many years to come.