Alexandria, VA – The American Sportfishing Association (ASA), along with numerous recreational fishing and boating organizations and dozens of Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, continues to strongly advocate for a legislative solution that requires that science be the primary force behind federal marine fisheries management decisions. Without passage of the Fishery Science Improvement Act (FSIA), new catch limits will be put in place by the end of 2011 for hundreds of the nation’s marine fisheries based on little or no scientific data. The deadline is driven by a statutory requirement included in the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).

“While other legislative amendments to MSA have been offered to address a variety of federal fisheries issues, we need Congress to understand that there is an immediate need to address the specific problem that FSIA solves,” said Mike Nussman, ASA president and CEO. “Unless Congress passes this legislation before the end of this year, come January 1, 2012, anglers and commercial fishermen alike will be facing hard new annual catch limits on numerous stocks of fish that are based on nothing more than guesswork.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) presently has 528 fish stocks or complexes of stocks under its management, but only has updated stock assessment data on 121 of those. Because MSA requires that annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures be put in place for every stock under federal management, NOAA Fisheries is applying highly precautionary catch limits on each stock regardless of the amount of data, or dropping stocks from management entirely.

“ACLs are already established for most of the heavily-targeted fish stocks and for every stock that is undergoing overfishing,” said Ken Haddad, ASA’s Marine Fisheries Advisor and former Executive Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “NOAA Fisheries and the Regional Fishery Management Councils are now setting ACLs for the remaining 400-plus stocks of fish that they are supposed to manage. Because NOAA has been unable to perform up-to-date assessments on these stocks, which include popular sportfish such as cobia, mahi mahi and over a dozen stocks in the South Atlantic snapper-grouper complex, they are resorting to insufficient, and in many cases, overly-precautionary methods.”

The FSIA allows NOAA Fisheries to set ACLs only on those stocks of fish for which they have the up-to-date scientific information necessary to inform that decision. The bill’s two conditions exempting a fishery from the ACL requirements are:

  • The lack of a stock assessment in the prior six years.
  • The absence of any indication that overfishing is occurring.

To help prevent the removal of stocks from management plans, the bill provides guidance for the agency to include some stocks in an “ecosystem management category” which allows them to remain under federal management without being subject to the ACL requirement. For a fact sheet on FSIA, go to www.asafishing.org/government/documents/FSIA_Fact_Sheet.pdf.

“There are several problems that arise when managers try to set ACLs on stocks for which they have no biological data,” continued Haddad. “In most cases, the only data available are historic catch levels, which are in no way a useful indicator of what level of harvest a stock can handle to maximize fishing opportunity while ensuring sustainability. The result is that anglers are now going to be held to hard, but arbitrary, fishing quotas, which , if exceeded, will cause the fishery to be shut down. These new ACLs may also require managers to shut down other healthy fisheries, or fisheries complexes, if the ACL for a bycatch species has been exceeded.”

“The new annual catch limits proposed by NOAA Fisheries and the Regional Fishery Management Councils are wrought with uncertainty, confusion and unintended consequences that will be felt in the form of lost access, lost jobs and lost business from coast to coast,” concluded Nussman. “The FSIA offers a thoughtful, realistic and common-sense solution that will uphold the conservation tenets of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act while relieving anglers and managers from totally unrealistic requirements that undercut the role science plays in management. ASA and the companies around the country it represents, urge Congress to pass this vitally important bill before the end of the year.”

Current cosponsors of FSIA include:

Senate Version (S. 1916)

  • Bill Nelson (D-FL)
  • Marco Rubio (R-FL)
  • Mark Begich (D-AK)
  • Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
  • Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • John Thune (R-SD)
  • David Vitter (R-LA)
  • Roger Wicker (R-MS)

House Version (H.R. 2304)

  • Rob Wittman (R-VA)
  • Rodney Alexander (R-LA)
  • John Barrow (D-GA)
  • Jo Bonner (R-AL)
  • Dan Boren (D-OK)
  • Leonard Boswell (D-IA)
  • Charles Boustany (R-LA)
  • Ken Calvert (R-CA)
  • Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
  • Howard Coble (R-NC)
  • Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
  • Jeff Duncan (R-SC)
  • John Duncan (R-TN)
  • John Fleming (R-LA)
  • Bill Flores (R-TX)
  • Michael Grimm (R-NY)
  • Frank Guinta (R-NH)
  • Andy Harris (R-MD)
  • Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
  • Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
  • Jeff Landry (R-LA)
  • Robert Latta (R-OH)
  • Mike McIntyre (D-NC)
  • John Mica (R-FL)
  • Jeff Miller (R-FL)
  • Alan Nunnelee (R-MS)
  • Steven Palazzo (R-MS)
  • Scott Rigell (R-VA)
  • Mike Ross (D-AR)
  • Steve Scalise (R-LA)
  • Tim Scott (R-SC)
  • Heath Shuler (D-NC)
  • Steve Southerland (R-FL)
  • Allen West (R-FL)
  • Addison Wilson (R-SC)
  • Donald Young (R-AK)

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry’s trade association, committed to looking out for the interests of the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry a unified voice speaking out when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. We invest in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous as well as safeguard and promote the enduring economic and conservation values of sportfishing in America. ASA also gives America’s 60 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation’s waterways through KeepAmericaFishing, our angler advocacy campaign. America’s anglers generate over $45 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for over one million people.

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