Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Fisheries Coalition Urges Flexibility in Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization

Alaska harvesters and conservationists are the latest in a wave of members of the Fishing Communities Coalition urging Congress to commit to science-based annual catch limits in all sectors in reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Representatives of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and the Alaska Marine Conservation Council were in Washington D.C. in mid-February meeting with the state’s congressional delegation. They underscored the need for a scientific basis for setting those annual catch limits and urged a commitment to strengthen other key provisions within the act.

“The Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) is working in Alaska and around the country because all sectors adhere to scientifically-sound annual catch limits. Reauthorization will only provide a bright future for our nation’s young fishermen if all sectors – commercial and recreational – recommit to sustainable harvest through improved stock assessment, better catch accounting, and strict adherence to annual catch limits,” said Linda Behnken of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

The Alaska contingent discussed the Young Fishermen’s Development Act, urging them to ensure the bipartisan initiative is signed into law in support of the next generation of commercial harvesters. The Young Fishermen’s Development Act would provide grants of up to $200,000 and a total of $2 million annually through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program for training, education and other assistance to the next generation of commercial harvesters.

Just a month earlier, members of the Fishing Communities Coalition from Cape Cod, Maine and the Gulf of Mexico were in Washington, D.C. to meet with policymakers on a similar mission.

The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) is concerned that House Resolution 200, one of several bills from which the new MSA legislation could emerge, would give recreational fishermen more access to fish without requiring them to be accountable for what they catch.

The FCC has proposed mandatory reporting in the recreational sector so that fishery managers know how many fish were harvested. The coalition also contends that H.R. 200, introduced by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, does not constitute a genuine national fisheries policy, as it creates different rules for different regions. The same rules should apply nationwide, the coalition said.

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