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.
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.”