Small Boat Fishing Protections Sought in Magnuson-Stevens Act

A coalition of small boat fishing groups from Alaska, Cape
Cod, Maine and the Gulf of Mexico says reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens
Fisheries Conservation and Management Act must include protections for
fisheries and fishing communities.
The Fishing Community Coalition, in a statement issued from
Anchorage, said the group formed specifically to ensure that the
reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens legislation moves the nation forward in its
fisheries management regime.
The legislation is the primary law governing marine
fisheries management in United States federal waters. It was named for Warren
G. Magnuson, former US senator from Washington State, and Ted Stevens, the former
senator from Alaska. Magnuson passed away in May of 1989, and Stevens died in a
plane crash in southwest Alaska on Aug. 9, 2010.
Originally enacted as the Fishery Conservation and
Management Act of 1976, the legislation has been amended many times over the
years. The two major recent sets of amendments were the Sustainable Fisheries
Act of 1996, and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management
Reauthorization Act of 2006.
According to the Fishing Community Coalition, current drafts
of the reauthorization legislation in both the House and Senate fall far short
of what is needed to ensure a healthy future for fisheries and fishing
The coalition includes the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s
Association, Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Cape Cod Commercial
Fishermen’s Alliance, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, and the
Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.
The coalition identified several specific concerns in a
letter addressed to Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, chairman of the Senate
Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, and Rep. Doc
Hastings, R-WA, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
This reauthorization, the coalition said, “must recognize
that we cannot have strong fishing communities throughout the US without robust
and well-managed fish stocks as well as strong protections for fisheries access
in traditional fishing ports.”
“It’s absurd and irresponsible to suggest that diminishing
our shared commitment to ending overfishing, rebuilding depleted stocks and
protecting sensitive seafloor habitat will benefit our nation’s fishermen,
fishing businesses or communities in the long term. What our fisheries need far
more than ‘flexibility’ is stability and opportunity,” the coalition said.

The group’s concerns range from assuring strong,
science-based management of fisheries to managing the nation under a single
fisheries law by applying consistent policies that prevent conflicting
management standards between different regions.