Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Changes Urged in Reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens Act

A University of Washington fisheries scientist says reauthorization of a major piece of fisheries legislation is a good time to focus on sustainable jobs, recreational opportunity and income to the industry.

Americans should be proud of our record of fisheries management, University of Washington Professor Ray Hilborn told the US House Committee on Natural Resources in testimony in early September. That record is unrivaled for rebuilding of fish stocks, transparency of management, and quality of the science that goes into it,” said Hilborn, who is with the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

“However, there has been a loss of focus on what we are trying to achieve, and sustainable jobs, recreational opportunity, and income seem to have been lost in the focus on overfishing as the threat to fisheries benefits,” Hilborn said in written testimony. “The reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens (Fishery Conservation and Management) Act is a time where the management system can be fine-tuned to maintain our current healthy fish stocks, but dramatically increase the benefits the citizens of the US receive from those stocks.”

Mike Anderson, press secretary to Rep, Don Young, R-Alaska, a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said the committee has held multiple oversight hearings to gain the perspective of various stakeholders on reauthorization of this fisheries legislation. There isn’t a draft bill yet, but once it is drafted, there will be legislative hearings on the bill, so there is still a long way to go, Anderson said, in an email Sept. 13.

Hilborn told the committee that the objective of the act appears to be to provide for sustainable employment, food supply, recreational opportunity and revenue, and to achieve that, conservation of fish stocks and habitats is essential.

“The two specifically targeted actions are to rebuild overexploited stocks and develop fisheries on underutilized species,” Hilborn said. Yet, he said, while reducing overfishing, one consequence has been far more underutilized fish stocks, and losing sight of the actual goals of employment, food supply, recreational opportunity and revenue.

Hilborn said that in his view there is a looming crisis coming with requirements to set annual catch limits on all stocks. The current management system does assessments and provides management plans for the great majority of stocks that contribute to the benefit of US society, but there are many stocks caught in US fisheries to some degree that are not a significant contribution to these benefits, he said. “We simply do not have the money and resources to collect scientific data, perform stock assessments, and manage all of these stocks.”

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