Rhode Island Fishing Newsletters > Magnuson-Stevens Act Gets Reviewed
Magnuson-Stevens Act Gets Reviewed

Mar 14, 2016

The Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the nation’s landmark fisheries law, is now 40 years old. I attended a senate hearing last week in Washington, DC to review the MSA.

Members of the oceans subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee asked questions and heard testimony on the successes, challenges and forward path of the law that had been reauthorized in 1996 and 2006.

Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), offered testimony.

The bipartisan support of the MSA was very uplifting. Many Senators noted the MSA has been very successful rebuilding fish stocks and is a global model for sustainable fisheries.

Some Senators related fisheries shortcomings that exist under the MSA such as the ability to handle challenges in fish populations due to climate change and warming water, the devastation of the ground fishery in the Gulf of Maine, the need to be more responsive to fishermen and fishing communities.

Senator Markey of Massachusetts brought up the plight of fishermen in his State that are catching large numbers of summer flounder and black sea bass and having the throw thousands of pounds of dead fish overboard because quotes have been kept too low without taking climate change into consideration. Scientists believe climate change has caused a shift in the bio mass of these species up the east coast due to warming water in New England. Senator Markey asked, “How is NOAA taking these climate changes into account when establishing fishing quotas.”

Samuel Rauch of NOAA addressed the climate change issue by relating work NOAA scientists have done in this area as well as relating how many of the other issues raised by Senators were being addressed or could be addressed within the existing MSA law.

Matt Tinning, senior director, U.S. Oceans Programs for the Environmental Defense Fund attended the hearing and said, “In some fisheries, improvements in management must be considered. But needed changes can be advanced within the existing legal framework (of the MSA), including through the stakeholder-driven regional council process that the MSA created. A complicated and protracted process of opening up the Magnuson-Stevens Act for reauthorization at this time is not only unnecessary but would be counter-productive. We urge Congress to keep what’s working.”

Congress is exploring new legislation to revise or reauthorize the MSA, many in the fishing community believe it is fine the way it is and that improvements can be made within the existing law. Others believe that reauthorized or not, MSA needs safeguards added to address key issues such as eco-system based management.

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