Position Paper Details GSI’s Platform on Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Reauthorization

by / Newsroom Ink on November 22, 2013
A Louisiana shrimp fleet at dock. The seafood board represents commercial saltwater and freshwater fishermen, shrimpers, oyster farmers/harvesters, and alligator, crab and crawfish industries – as well as seafood processors, wholesalers, retailers and restaurateurs. Photo: LDWF

The Magnuson-Stevens Act, reauthorized in 2007, has been effective in rebuilding fisheries and ensuring their availability for future generations. Photo/ Stock

 by Margaret Henderson/Henderson Strategies and Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

The Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI) has authorized a position paper detailing the organizations platform on the upcoming reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). The position paper has been presented to the House Resources and Senate Commerce Committees during recent meetings on Capitol Hill.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard is in the process of holding a series of hearings on MSA to review perspectives from different regions across the country. A recent hearing focused on the southeast region, including the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf Seafood Institute is expanding its current MSA platform as it continues to work with policymakers on issues affecting the Gulf coast seafood community.

Senate Hears Testimony

At the recent hearing Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl) stated, “Data collection is fundamental to fishery management. Proper flexibility is necessary because each region has unique issues.”

Rubio

According to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl) whose state supports a $7.1 billion dollar saltwater fishing industry, MSA currently does not work for recreational fisheries. Photo: Sen. Marco Rubio

According to the Florida senator, whose state supports a $7.1 billion dollar saltwater fishing industry, MSA currently does not work for recreational fisheries. He would like to see for all sectors, with priorities placed on scientific funding and giving fishermen role in data collection.

“The best available science doesn’t work when the science isn’t available,” he said during the hearing.

“In the years since the Magnuson-Stevens Act was last reauthorized we’ve seen a remarkable transformation of the Gulf’s commercial red snapper and grouper fisheries,” said Pamela Baker, the Environmental Defense Fund’s Gulf of Mexico Oceans Program Director. “Management of the Gulf’s federal red snapper recreational fishery is broken. To get longer seasons that people seek and ensure sustainability, new plans are needed that help anglers and charter captains improve their opportunities to fish. Meaningful change will once again require vision and foresight from the regional fishery council and stakeholders.”

Pam

“In the years since the Magnuson-Stevens Act was last reauthorized we’ve seen a remarkable transformation of the Gulf’s commercial red snapper and grouper fisheries,” said Pamela Baker, the Environmental Defense Fund’s Gulf of Mexico Oceans Program Director. Photo: EDF

David Krebs, president and owner of Ariel Seafoods in Destin, FL and GSI board member, was troubled hearing testimony failed to state gulf red snapper are on a 30-year timeline.

The seafood institute which represents every Gulf state as well as every aspect of the industry – both commercial and recreational – is positioned as a leading voice on key issues including sustainability, seafood safety, disaster mitigation and recovery, and data collection. In the paper it maintains t the process outlined under the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is working.

The Department of Commerce, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils work together to monitor, manage and enforce a program that has led the United States to its position as a global leader in responsibly managed fisheries and sustainable seafood.

Guided by 10 National Standards of Sustainability, these agencies monitor, manage and legally enforce all marine fisheries in the United States under some of the most restrictive regulations.

GSI Recommendations

“U.S. fish populations are rebuilding and fish abundance is improving,” said Johnny Greene, an Alabama charter captain and member of the GSI board. “Since 2000, thirty-two fish stocks in the U.S. have been rebuilt meaning that routine stock assessments conducted by fishery scientists indicate that the abundance of the stock is above the maximum sustainable yield.”

Capt-Johnny-Greene-1

U.S. fish populations are rebuilding and fish abundance is improving,” said Johnny Greene, an Alabama charter captain and member of the GSI board. Photo: Johnny Greene

According to Green, GSI, which seeks to bolster fisheries science and research helping to preserve the Gulf seafood resource and contribute to the longevity of the industry overall, supports legislation reauthorizing the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

The organization feels new legislation should include:

1. Flexibility in Timelines:

• Timelines for rebuilding fisheries must be relaxed to enhance flexibility for fishery managers. Current requirement of MSA for rebuilding overfished fisheries within ten years, with certain exceptions, is an arbitrary time frame and totally unrelated to the biological needs at hand. Similarly, requirement to end overfishing immediately considers no other factors. The resulting impact on the human side of the equation can be severe as a result of the significant disruption, while the fishery is usually capable of a far more gentle transition.
• A 2013 report issued by the National Research Council (NRC) addressed the existing rebuilding needs and realities. GSI is in full agreement with NRC’s recommendations, which support a biologically based approach for rebuilding plans, which is fundamental change to achieve success for the fish stocks and the populace

2. Allowable Catch Limits:

• The Annual Catch Limit (ACL) process needs to be revised to increase flexibility, particularly where fish stock lacks enough data to make sound management decisions. Data collection must be improved by accounting for actual “take,” both retained and discarded, for fishery managers to set appropriate ACL’s.

3. New Funding Sources:

• Marine enforcement action fines and permitting fees should stay within the region in which they were collected, not transmitted to the general fund. The relevant Regional Fishery Management Council should manage these funds. MSA’s enforcement language should be balanced to ensure the collection of fines does not drive the process, but instead helps to achieve the true objective of 100% compliance and $0 fines.

4. Role of Science and Statistical Committees:

• Science and Statistical Committees (SSC) and other Councils should have the ability to immediately react to crisis and other situations in a timely manner. The overly long notice period form meetings needs better integration and should be more flexible to help address these issues.

5. Regional Fishery Management Council Accountability:

• Strict fishery accountability measures must be established for the Councils, including a revision of the Council membership and appointment process to ensure fair and equitable representation from both the commercial and recreational communities as well as consumers. This could be accomplished by simply reinserting the expired subparagraph Sec. 302(b)(1)(D)(i) from the current Magnuson.

Solving Fishery Problems A Challenge

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is pleased that the National Marine Fisheries Service has completed a benchmark assessment for red snapper for the first time since 2009. “Fishermen all need the best science,” he said. “Better science means more days on the water. We must focus on importance of good science.”

Bill_Nelson

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is pleased that the National Marine Fisheries Service has completed a benchmark assessment for red snapper for the first time since 2009. Photo: Sen. Bill Nelson

“Solving fishery problems is challenging, but the system has worked to replace management that had failed with a plan that meets regional needs,” said Baker. “As Congress considers changes to the law, it must first and foremost safeguard what is working well. False ‘solutions’—such as ”reallocation” of fish away from local fishing businesses and consumers, or weakening amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act—won’t help anglers and represent a step backwards from a prosperous future for the Gulf.”

The Magnuson-Stevens Act, reauthorized in 2007, has been effective in rebuilding fisheries and ensuring their availability for future generations. Modest improvements can still be made to ensure the toll on society is minimized when fisheries need to be restored to healthy populations.

GSI is committed to its involvement with the Gulf Coast Congressional delegation and the relevant Congressional Committees as policymakers move forward to update and strengthen this landmark fisheries management program.

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About the Author

About the Author: Ed Lallo is the former editor of Gulf Seafood News and CEO of Newsroom Ink, an online brand journalism agency. .

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  1. buddy says:

    very good article presented by a group of industry leaders with a lot of thought given to all stakeholder groups

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