Concerned About Your Access to Fish?
The Fishing Wire
Do you fish in salt water? Have you been frustrated by short seasons for certain species and catch limits for fish that seem to live in great abundance in the ocean? If the answer to these questions is yes, you need to understand the importance of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the primary law governing fisheries management in the U.S. It is coming up for reauthorization in Congress soon, which means the law can be changed.
At the Classic Roundtable on National Recreational Fishing in Soldotna, Alaska, recently, a group of fishing, boating and conservation leaders planned strategy for improving the Magnuson-Stevens Act, soon coming up for reauthorization by Congress.
In preparation for the debate to come, a group of recreational fishing stakeholders recently presented a vision for the future of recreational fisheries management at the Classic Roundtable on National Recreational Fishing in Soldotna, Alaska. The outcome of the discussion may have long-lasting impact in the recreational fishing community.
Roundtable panelists including Thom Dammrich, President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA®) Pat Murray, President of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA®) Jeff Angers, President of the Center for Coastal Conservation (CCC) and George Cooper, advisor to the President of the American Sportfishing Association® (ASA®) presented to Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Senate Oceans and Fisheries Subcommittee Chairman. Former NOAA® fisheries director Rollie Schmitten moderated the event, and Yamaha Marine Group past President and NOAA® Marine Fisheries Advisory Council member Phil Dyskow served as master of ceremonies.
In his opening remarks, Dyskow reviewed the history of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), pointing out that recreational fishing was an afterthought in the legislation and remains so.
Yamaha Marine Group President Ben Speciale attended and met with Senator Begich, whose subcommittee will be instrumental in gathering views on how the reauthorization will be written.
"There were two important outcomes from this event," said Speciale. "The most influential representatives of sportfishing in the country were able to not only voice their concerns but define how sportfishing should be managed in the future. Secondly, the sportfishing community made its case to a pivotal member of the U.S. Senate."
The roundtable panelists presented four main points, each with a call to action for the Senator and other legislators:
Recreational fishing has great economic impact.
Call to action: MSA Reauthorization should recognize the importance of the recreational sector, given its economic, social and conservation values, and implement management approaches that are more appropriate for this important and distinct activity.
The system for allocation must be examined.
Call to action: MSA Reauthorization must formalize guidelines and criteria allocating fisheries between commercial and recreational users, using conservation, economic, and social criteria.
Change the way catch limits are determined.
Call to action: Rather than establishing individual annual catch limits (ACLs) for every single individual fish stock, MSA Reauthorization should target management to the science we have - not the science we wish we had.
Allow for alternative management approaches for recreational fishing.
Call to action: MSA Reauthorization should, where appropriate, transfer management of individual stocks to states or interstate fisheries management commissions.
The Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA), which hosted the roundtable, has posted a video of the event on its YouTube® page. Please click here to view the video.
"While it is great that Senator Begich heard the voices of recreational fishing, we need to make sure the rest of Congress hears the same message," said Speciale." Everyone who cares about fishing needs to get involved in the effort."
The Reauthorization will not be considered by the full Congress, according to the current estimate, until 2014. Meanwhile, the Senate Oceans and Fisheries Subcommittee will hold field hearings and discussions to gain input from stakeholders.
What is MSA?
The MSA was not primarily a rule for governing recreational fishing when first passed, but it has had some unfortunate consequences for anglers in recent years that leaders are hoping to eliminate this time around.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA), commonly known as the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), is named after Warren G. Magnuson, former U.S. Senator from Washington, and Ted Stevens, the late U.S. Senator from Alaska.
Originally enacted as the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, the law has been amended many times over the years. Two major amendments were the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006. MSA is scheduled for Reauthorization again in 2013.
Under MSA, Regional Fishery Management Councils are charged with developing and implementing fishery management plans (FMP), both to restore depleted stocks and manage healthy stocks. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) aids the Secretary of Commerce, who evaluates and approves the councils' FMPs.
From a sportfisherman's perspective, the major flaw in MSA is that it was designed to address commercial fishing. Accordingly, MSA's annual catch limits, allocations and management processes are all geared to commercial fishing. In addition, the law requires catch limits be established for all species under management, even if there is no data to support that a stock is depleted. The result is that recreational anglers are challenged by shortened fishing seasons and catch limits on fish stocks that appear to exist in great abundance.