Council for Sustainable Fishing applauds proposed Magnuson-Stevens Act reforms offered by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Hastings

MURRELLS INLET, SC – The Council for Sustainable Fishing, a nonprofit advocacy group for commercial and recreational fishing interests, Monday applauded proposed legislation released by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) last week, which would offer significant flexibility reforms in reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the law governing federal ocean fisheries.

“We are pleased with the direction of Congressman Hastings’ proposed legislation. For too long, commercial and recreational fishermen and the coastal economy have been unnecessarily impacted by the inflexible mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” Council for Sustainable Fishing Executive Director Tom Swatzel said. “Fishermen in the South Atlantic region have been suffering draconian cuts in landings for years, killing jobs, hurting the economy and unnecessarily restricting consumer access to fresh domestic seafood.”

The impacts of the 2007 version of the Act have been especially felt in the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery, where from 2007 to 2012, fishing effort and landings from all sectors combined plunged by nearly 40 percent and 35 percent respectively.

Dubbed the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,’’ Hastings’ legislation would renew and amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which technically expired on October 1st.

The legislation would, among other things, increase the time period for regional fishery management councils to end overfishing from 2 to 3 years, give the councils the flexibility to institute fishery rebuilding plans that extend beyond the existing 10 year mandate, and allow consideration of ecosystem changes and the economic needs of fishing communities in establishing annual catch limits.

A congressionally requested report from the National Research Council released in September said that more flexibility in the length of fishery rebuilding plans is needed. The report stated that there was a “…mismatch between the current prescriptions for rebuilding within a limited time frame and the uncertainties inherent in assessing and managing fisheries given data limitations and complex ecosystem dynamics where fishing is only one of many influences on fish populations.”

Hastings’ legislation would also require referendum approval of any proposed “catch share” programs in the South Atlantic by a majority of the affected fishery permit holders.

A catch share-based fishery management plan takes a fishermen’s landings and converts them to “shares” that can be bought and sold much like a commodity on Wall Street.

“Catch shares have been opposed by the overwhelming majority of fishermen in the South Atlantic and rightly so since studies have shown that these programs provide no biological benefit to fisheries and cause significant job losses,” Swatzel said. “Allowing permit holders the right to vote on the implementation of these schemes is the right thing to do.”

The House Natural Resources Committee has held eight hearings over the past three years related to fisheries management and the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Members of the public interested in commenting on Hastings’ draft legislation can email magnusonstevens@mail.house.gov.

The Council for Sustainable Fishing has a unique multistate membership combination of commercial and recreational fishermen, seafood dealers and wholesalers, restaurateurs, and chefs in the South Atlantic region that have a stated mission of “optimizing and sustaining fishing opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen to aid the coastal economy of the region and ensure stable seafood availability to consumers.”

The CFSF website is Sustainablefishing.org

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