Jones legislation on rebuilding fisheries gains support
By SUSAN WEST
State fisheries commissioners unanimously passed a resolution on Nov.
16 supporting “the spirit” of the Flexibility in Rebuilding
American Fisheries Act of 2007, legislation introduced early in
November by Congressman Walter B. Jones, R-NC.
The bill amends the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and
Management Act to allow federal managers flexibility in setting
deadlines for rebuilding fish stocks to healthy, sustainable
Under current law, stock recovery is required to be completed in the
shortest time possible, not exceeding 10 years in most cases.
“With a little more time to rebuild stocks, the federal
management plans might not create so much hardship for North Carolina
fishermen,” said commissioner Bradley Styron, a commercial
fisherman and fish dealer from Cedar Island, during the meeting of the
North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission at the Ocracoke Community
“Flexibility is needed in management as long as the time frame
isn’t so long that stocks never recover,” added
commissioner and recreational fisherman Rusty Russ from Shallotte.
Louis Daniel, director of the North Carolina Division of Marine
Fisheries, told commissioners he supported the tenor of the
legislation, but thought some sections might need to be refined.
“The general principle is a good one, and we certainly look
forward to the opportunity to work with Congressman Jones and others on
this bill,” Daniel said.
The bill picked up additional support last week when Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., signed on as co-sponsor.
“It should be possible to promote healthy fisheries and
economically prosperous fishing communities at the same time, but
current law doesn’t fully take into account the potential
negative economic impact of one-size-fits-all rebuilding time
frames,” said Frank in a press release.
Frank opposed the act passed by Congress last December that
reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Act, retaining the 10-year rebuilding
time frame for all species except summer flounder
During the reauthorization process, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management
Council, one of the eight federal councils, urged Congress to discard
the 10-year rule to prevent “unwarranted economic and social
costs” and replace it with a requirement for management measures
that showed positive trends within three years.
The Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act is picking up a
broad base of support from commercial and recreational fishermen,
according to Sean McKeon, president of the North Carolina Fisheries
Association, a commercial fishing industry organization.
The scope of that support can be seen in New Jersey, where the Garden
State Seafood Association and the Recreational Fishing Alliance, two
groups often at odds when it comes to fisheries issues, support the
“This legislation will aid commercial and recreational fishermen
and the businesses that depend on them that are now threatened by rigid
time frames and rebuilding parameters that are impossible to
achieve,” according to a statement from the Garden State Seafood
“It will provide for healthy and well-managed fisheries based on
the actual biological condition of the fish populations, rather than on
arbitrary schedules established with no regard to natural conditions in
the oceans or economic realities ashore,” the statement continued.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act directs managers to development management
plans that not only protect marine resources, but that also minimize
adverse economic impacts on fishing communities.
Fishermen said that when managers are locked into a 10-year rebuilding
schedule, socio-economic considerations usually get pushed to the side.
Some environmental advocacy groups argue that adjusting the rebuilding schedule would jeopardize conservation efforts.
“We are very concerned about (this legislation). We
don’t want to see the law opened up and weakened again,”
said Lee Crockett, director of federal fisheries policy with the Pew
Charitable Trusts’ Environment Group, a public policy advocacy
group, during a press conference in early November.
The Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2007 has been
referred to the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans.