Congress Turns Attention to Saltwater Fisheries Management

Alexandria, VA – February 4, 2014 – Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee held the first Congressional hearing on a draft bill reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the legislation that governs federal saltwater fisheries management. Of keen interest to the saltwater recreational fishing community regarding the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization process is the opportunity to finally address the historic lack of attention the federal fisheries management system has paid to recreational fishing. The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is pleased that Congress is exploring legislative changes to this important law and will provide input throughout the reauthorization process to ensure enhanced fisheries conservation while upholding recreational fishing’s economic, social and conservation benefits.

“In recent years, under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, tremendous progress has been made toward rebuilding marine fisheries and regulating commercial fisheries harvest sustainably,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman. “However, since the original passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1976, recreational fishing has been an afterthought in federal fisheries management.”

Nussman further said, “Our nation’s 11 million saltwater anglers have a $70 billion economic impact each year, supporting 454,000 jobs. Reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Act is an opportunity to develop a management system that conserves fishery resources, provides consistency in regulations and produces the full range of saltwater recreational fishing’s economic, social and conservation benefits for the nation.”

In 2013, several hearings were held in both the Senate and House of Representatives to provide legislators with various perspectives on federal fisheries management and needed changes. Last December, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) released a “Discussion Draft” of a Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization bill. Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, recently stated that he intends to release a draft Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization bill in March.

“Chairman Hasting’s draft Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization bill contains some provisions that we support, and others that give us cause for concern,” said Mike Leonard, ASA’s Ocean Resource Policy director. “This is often the case with such significant and complicated legislation, particularly at this relatively early stage of the legislative process.”

Leonard also pointed out that several key priorities of the recreational fishing community are not addressed in Chairman Hasting’s draft legislation, including establishing a national policy for recreational fishing, adopting a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management and formalizing a process for examining allocations of mixed-use fisheries.

Leonard concluded, “We look forward to working with Chairman Hastings, other members of the House Natural Resources Committee and their colleagues in the Senate to incorporate the recreational fishing community’s priorities for MSA reauthorization as this process moves forward.”