A coalition of small boat fishing groups from Alaska, Cape Cod, Maine and the Gulf of Mexico says reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act must include protections for fisheries and fishing communities.
The Fishing Community Coalition, in a statement issued from Anchorage, said the group formed specifically to ensure that the reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens legislation moves the nation forward in its fisheries management regime.
The legislation is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in United States federal waters. It was named for Warren G. Magnuson, former US senator from Washington State, and Ted Stevens, the former senator from Alaska. Magnuson passed away in May of 1989, and Stevens died in a plane crash in southwest Alaska on Aug. 9, 2010.
Originally enacted as the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, the legislation has been amended many times over the years. The two major recent sets of amendments were the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996, and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006.
According to the Fishing Community Coalition, current drafts of the reauthorization legislation in both the House and Senate fall far short of what is needed to ensure a healthy future for fisheries and fishing communities.
The coalition includes the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, and the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.
The coalition identified several specific concerns in a letter addressed to Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-WA, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
This reauthorization, the coalition said, “must recognize that we cannot have strong fishing communities throughout the US without robust and well-managed fish stocks as well as strong protections for fisheries access in traditional fishing ports.”
“It’s absurd and irresponsible to suggest that diminishing our shared commitment to ending overfishing, rebuilding depleted stocks and protecting sensitive seafloor habitat will benefit our nation’s fishermen, fishing businesses or communities in the long term. What our fisheries need far more than ‘flexibility’ is stability and opportunity,” the coalition said.
The group’s concerns range from assuring strong, science-based management of fisheries to managing the nation under a single fisheries law by applying consistent policies that prevent conflicting management standards between different regions.