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.”