Jones introduces legislation to give fisheries managers more flexibility
By SUSAN WEST
introduced by U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., would give fisheries
managers flexibility in setting the timeframe for rebuilding fish
stocks to healthy, sustainable levels.
Under the current Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management
Act, stock recovery is required to be completed in the shortest time
possible, not exceeding 10 years in most cases.
“The Magnuson Act’s arbitrary rebuilding schedules are
proving harmful to America’s commercial and recreational
fishermen and the families, businesses and communities they
support,” said Jones in a press release describing the
Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2007 (HR 4087) that
he introduced Nov. 6.
“I do not understand why this government would require rebuilding
of a fish stock in 10 years even when that causes widespread economic
dislocation, when if given a few more years, the fish stock could be
rebuilt with minimal economic hardship to fishermen. The lack of
common sense here is stunning, and my constituents should not have to
bear the burden,” Jones said.
HR 4087 would allow federal fisheries management councils to extend the
deadline for rebuilding stocks when fishing restrictions alone
won’t result in healthy fish populations.
The legislation also allows extended recovery time to minimize negative
impacts on fishing communities while stocks are rebuilding, or in cases
where the biological target goals in fisheries management plans have
Sean McKeon, president of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, a
commercial fishing trade organization, said his organization fully
supports the legislation.
“Just because something helps fishermen doesn’t mean it is
bad for the environment. This legislation doesn’t weaken or
dilute conservation,” said McKeon.
McKeon said his organization and other groups were disappointed when
Congress failed to include flexible rebuilding timeframes in the
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization
Act last year.
The Recreational Fishing Alliance, an advocacy group for saltwater
sportfishermen and industries headquartered in New Jersey, was one of
those groups, according to executive director Jim Donofrio.
Donofrio described a letter sent to fisheries council members from
William Hogarth, director of the National Marine Fisheries Service,
last week as “a real eye-opener” for many fishermen and
The letter warned that unless more severe harvest reductions are in
place next year, the summer flounder fishery could be shutdown in 2009,
despite positive growth in the population under current regulations.
“It’s not just about summer flounder. We have other
stocks that are rebuilding but due to an arbitrary timeframe,
recreational and commercial fishermen in the U.S. won’t have
access to sustainable fisheries,” he said.
“And, that’s what some extreme environmental groups
want. What they are promoting is nothing short of environmental
fraud,” said Donofrio.
Most environmental organizations contacted after the legislation was introduced said that they had not had time to review it.
However, Brooks Mountcastle with the Marine Fish Conservation Network,
a national coalition of conservation organizations, said that Congress
addressed flexibility in the reauthorization act last year.
“There’s already flexibility in the law. (Fishery
management) councils are required to follow the science, and the law
gives them 10 years to rebuild stocks,” he said.
“Councils need to rebuild fisheries sooner rather than later,” Mountcastle said.