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March 08, 2011

CCA testifies on Magnuson-Stevens implementation problems

Comments to Senate focus on negative impacts to recreational fisheries

WASHINGTON, DC - In response to a growing chorus of frustration, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing today before the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee on implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Bill Bird, a long-time volunteer leader in the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), was invited to testify on how MSA implementation is impacting recreational fisheries.

"Bill has been fishing Florida for decades and is well-versed in the difficulties of federal fisheries management, and he informed the Subcommittee about all of the things recreational anglers have been talking about and struggling with for the past four years," said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA's National Government Relations Committee. "Simply put, there is a management crisis facing many recreational fisheries with the implementation of the 2006 reauthorization of MSA."

Among other issues, the 2006 amendments to MSA included a provision requiring "annual catch limits" or ACLs that must not be exceeded for every federally managed fishery. However, accurate data is clearly a prerequisite for establishing an ACL and that accurate data has been sorely lacking for the recreational sector.

"Recreational fisheries that have suffered for years from a complete lack of federal management cannot now be expected to implement arguably the most aggressive legal fishery management requirement ever established," said Bird. "Without a recent, accurate stock assessment and good catch data, there is no way to meet the legal requirements of the 2006 Reauthorization of MSA. It is the legal equivalent of requiring drivers to not exceed the speed limit while driving cars without speedometers."

Bird's testimony will also emphasize the importance of allocation; highlight the federal government's failure to implement the national recreational registry program by 2009, and review well-known current and pending fisheries debacles including South Atlantic red snapper, black sea bass, dolphin, wahoo and cobia.

"These problems are creating a damaging rift between conservation-minded anglers and the federal agencies charged with managing our fisheries. It is critical that before annual catch limits are imposed on data-poor fisheries and fisheries that have had no assessments, the Congress must require the stocks actually be assessed," Bird said.

For a complete copy of the testimony, click HERE.