Legislation introduced last night by Congressman Jon Runyan (R-NJ) seeks to change the way science informs the management of our nation’s wild ocean fisheries. The Transparent and Science Based Fishery Management Act (HR 6350) ostensibly promotes goals that the vast majority of fisheries stakeholders share; and some provisions are commendable. However, fishermen and conservationists under the Marine Fish Conservation Network umbrella today expressed alarm about the bill’s potential to open loopholes that could undermine science-based fisheries management.

After decades of chronic overfishing, American fishermen have changed the way they fish. Management now prioritizes the long-term sustainability of the resource on which they depend, albeit sometimes at the expense of short-term fishing opportunities. US fisheries management is turning the corner, with overfishing on the decline and important stocks being rebuilt.

Sera Drevenak, Policy and Outreach Director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, offered the following statement:

“Our current system of fisheries management isn’t perfect; however, we’ve made major gains in our efforts to stop overfishing and rebuild overfished stocks. In 2006, when Congress reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Act, America had 48 stocks that were subject to overfishing. Now it has 36—with science-based plans in place to reduce that number further. The law’s Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures are working, and translating into greater fishing opportunities for many of America’s anglers and commercial fishermen.

“Last night’s legislation includes some commendable provisions. Greater council transparency, smarter prioritization of stock assessments, and the reinvestment of enforcement penalties in fisheries science are all measures that should receive widespread support. The bill’s Annual Catch Limit exemptions, however, risk opening dangerous loopholes in our science-based management system that could undo years of painstaking progress.

“Many commercial fishermen and recreational anglers would like to see further refinements in our fishery management system; yet they are proud to participate in some of the most sustainably-managed fisheries in the world. America’s fishermen are true conservationists. They’re committed to ensuring Congress does not risk undermining science-based management just at the point when many of those fisheries are on the rebound.”

Image courtesy Marine Fish Conservation Network

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One thought on “Conservation-Minded Fishermen React to Fisheries Reform Bill

  1. Only one problem – NOAA and their Councils admit to not having nearly enough science, nor enough funds to do due diligence and are cutting funds for independent research in half.

    Both NOAA and the SAMFC have told me that they
    “BELIEVE” that these fish populations are in trouble. When questioned about any legitimate science
    for their action they admit to having only “ESTIMATED” status indicators,
    “ESTIMATED” benchmarks, “ESTIMATED” landings and “ESTIMATED” discards and make
    all their decisions based on projected values from “ESTIMATED” assessment
    models and to the numbers of recreational fishermen that NOAA leadership has
    testified to be “fatally flawed”. So much
    for real numbers! NOAA admits that their
    figures are just “EDUCATED GUESSES” and have told us more than once that they
    don’t have the proper funding to do the job correctly.
    In addition several upper echolon NOAA scientists who for what ever reason, no longer work for the current environmentally driven leadership of NOAA have stated the “overfishing is no longer a problem”
    Since MRFSS was proven to be totally wrong (off up to 400%) and the MIRP program that was supposed to be in place years ago but is just now being partially implemented, is using estimates based on numbers derived from MRFSS data current information is not even close to being correct.

    Since October, 2011 through the end of May, 2012, in the SAMFC, no one was allowed to fish for 99% of the normally targeted fish (i.e. Black Sea Bass, Red Snapper, Vermillion Snapper and most grouper species). Consequently no one went fishing – If someone was called by the MIRP Coastal Household Telephone Survey and were asked what they caught the answer that the data collectors would put down was “NOTHING”, so obviously Ms. Lubchenco is correct – there are no fish left in the ocean.

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