The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) says saltwater anglers may notice a big fancy gift sitting under the Christmas tree this holiday season, as House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) just unveiled a draft proposal to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
So while congressional elves were busily working in Santa's shop in recent weeks, RFA is now actively going through the wrapping with members of the recreational fishing industry to determine if celebrations are really in order for the New Year.
The draft proposal is titled Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act and would renew and amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act - last authorized by Congress in 2006 through fiscal year 2013 - which governs the recreational and commercial harvest of fisheries in Federal waters.
"This proposal would give regional fishery managers increased flexibility to deal with the complexity of fishery issues and provide economic stability and certainty to fishermen and fishery dependent communities," said Chairman Hastings, adding "It also would improve data collection and increase transparency so that management decisions are based on sound science and all who are impacted by this law can have an active role in the process."
"The Magnuson-Stevens Act has enabled the U.S. to have the best managed fisheries in the world and has been instrumental in providing a framework for allowing regions to address their own unique challenges," Chairman Hastings said, while adding "Yet, as the Committee has heard at multiple oversight hearings, many fishermen and coastal communities that depend on healthy fisheries are currently facing challenges - including sudden severe cuts to quotas, rising costs, and restrictive fishing seasons.
"I believe there are updates to the law that should be considered that will address these concerns and ensure there is a proper balance between the biological needs of fish and the economic needs of fishermen," said Chairman Hastings.
RFA executive director Jim Donofrio said the key themes of the draft proposal look good and certainly fall into line with the organization's ongoing efforts to reform the law on behalf of recreational anglers. "It's good to see some additional management flexibility when rebuilding depleted fisheries and setting annual catch levels, but we want to make sure that the language written into this draft will not upset the balance of commerce and conservation," Donofrio said.
"RFA has been fairly vocal about the need to amend the federal fisheries law to better represent the interests and needs of the recreational fishing community, but we certainly don't want to do that at the expense of healthy fisheries either," said Donofrio.
To read the press release from Chairman Hastings:
To review the new draft proposal: