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Press Release

Committee Calls for Improved Science, Local Flexibility and Regulatory Certainty in Magnuson-Stevens

Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing examining the successes and needed updates to the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). Passed in 1976, MSA is the primary law governing fisheries in federal waters.

The law requires federal fishery managers to impose an annual catch limit on both commercial and recreational fisheries. Critics of this system argue that it represents deficient science, disproportionately hurts the recreational industry and is unnecessarily inflexible.

“Management of the recreational sector under strict annual catch limits generates devastating socioeconomic effects and is highly unreasonable due to the insufficiency of the recreational data collection system.” Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service Nick Wiley stated. “[It] is truly a square peg in a round hole causing high levels of frustration.”

“Sometimes the ‘best science available’ is no science at all, and that’s what hurts us,” Congressman Don Yong (R-AK) said.

“Many of the issues faced by our commercial and recreational anglers could be alleviated if sound science was actually being applied,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) added. I have faith that the new administration will do just that.

MSA also requires that overfished species be rebuilt within ten years. The industry has generally condemned this provision as arbitrary and harmful to both fisheries and the many communities that rely on them.

“The result has been that a founding principle of the Act has been eroded to the extent where we have lost our collective ability to ‘achieve optimum yield on a continuing basis’ in our region,” Lund’s Fisheries, Inc. Jeff Kaelin stated.

Uncertainty has plagued many fisheries due to duplicative and ill-suited regulations from a host of environmental statutes and, more recently, capricious and disruptive marine monument designations acted upon through executive fiat.

“In our view marine monument designations were politically motivated and addressed non-existing problems,” President of the Hawaii Longline Association Sean Martin said. “Fisheries operating in these areas were sustainably managed for several decades under the MSA and the Western Pacific Council. There was no serious attempt to work with the fishing industry in the designations of these monuments.”

I may not live in a coastal community, however – like many of my colleagues – I have constituents that want fresh, sustainable, U.S. caught seafood on their dinner plates,” Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said. [W]e can maintain sustainability while also increasing access to our waters for all. We can strike a balance and it is incumbent on us to do so.

Click here to view full witness testimony.