Bill Revising Fisheries
by K.C. Mehaffey
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a revised Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act on July 11 that would give local fisheries commissions more authority to set seasons and develop recovery plans for overfished stocks.
H.R. 200 passed 222-193 and was sent to the Senate. Supporters say the bill provides more flexibility for local fishery councils, which are now held to strict standards when stocks dip below certain levels. Those who oppose the bill credit the law with restoring many runs that had been depleted by overfishing, and worry the change will be a setback to those efforts.
The bill was introduced by Alaska Rep. Don Young, and none of its 11 cosponsors are from the Pacific Northwest. Votes from Congressmen representing Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana were strictly by party, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against.
Revisions to the act, which was passed in 1976, would include changes in fishery management plans and catch limit requirements for overfished stocks, according to the House summary of the bill. It also replaces the term "overfished" with "depleted" throughout the act. Portions of the bill also relate specifically to the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, and offshore fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Media reports say the revisions hold sports fishers--who favor the bill--to looser standards than commercial fishers, pitting the two groups against each other.
Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportsfishing Industry Association, said she has been tracking the bill, but is not actively pushing for its passage. She said there are a range of views on the bill, and noted that the act has worked well for managing commercial fishing, but does not provide the same recognition for sports fishing.
"Many would say it needs tweaking," she said, adding, "Until we see a reform of the Magnuson-Stevens Act that does acknowledge sports fishing, we're going to continue to see bills like this."
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