New legislation to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), is now before the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act was introduced by Representatives Jared Huffman, D-CA, and Ed Case, D-HI, in the wake of a listening tour by Huffman to collect comments on issues facing numerous entities that depend on healthy fisheries.
Huffman is the chair and Case is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife.
Huffman said that while MSA has worked well, new approaches are needed in this era of climate change, new technologies, evolving science needs and increasing ocean use. The new legislation rises to the challenges of the 21st century and includes critical updates to the landmark law, he said.
“With the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act we can strengthen fishing communities and ensure a high standard of sustainable fisheries management continues well into the future,” he remarked.
The proposed amendments to MSA in the new legislation include consideration of climate change in regional fishery management council priorities and planning, and an improved disaster relief program, a working waterfront grant program and increased support of seafood marketing. Other amendments would increase representation of different viewpoints on regional fishery management councils, expand electronic technologies and data management systems, update cooperative research and management, and strengthen essential fish habitat consultation, building on MSA conservation standards to improve outcomes for overfishing and rebuilding and conserving forage fish.
According to Robert Vandermark, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, the new legislation offers several crucial improvements to federal marine policy, including for the first time addressing effects of climate change on U.S. ocean fisheries, by incorporating climate science and adaptation strategies into management decisions.
The bill also incorporates language to provide support for working waterfronts by allocating funds and resources to improve coastal infrastructure and deal with the growing threats of climate change, Vandermark said, adding that it further recognizes the need for accurate, timely and verified catch data for all major commercial and recreational fisheries and includes measures to modernize data collection methods and utilize electronic technologies to improve catch accounting, particularly in the recreational sector.