The latest hearing on the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) took an encouraging turn yesterday as it became clear that something must be done to address shortcomings in the law as it relates to the management of recreational fisheries.
“I think the biggest take away from the testimony we will hear today is that Magnuson-Stevens, as currently drafted, simply does not work for the recreational fishing community,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl). “Faced with concerns over allocation and uncertain seasons – in some cases in the South Atlantic, no season at all! – our recreational fishermen have lost any semblance of faith in the federal management system.”
MSA is the overarching law managing the nation’s fisheries and was last reauthorized in 2006 with some of the most stringent fisheries management components ever seen. The law far outstripped the abilities of federal managers to implement it in any manner that made sense and the result has been a jolting series of shocks on all coasts as fishery after fishery was severely curtailed or closed in misguided attempts at management.
“Sen. Rubio is exactly right and we are grateful that he has such a clear understanding of the issues facing recreational anglers,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). “After the last reauthorization, it became glaringly apparent that you cannot try to manage recreational fisheries with tools designed to manage industrial fishing. Anglers are fortunate to have Sen. Rubio making these points that are so important to us as the pace of reauthorization picks up.”
Among the issues CCA has identified that must be addressed in the next reauthorization:
- Hard quotas and annual catch limits based on infrequent stock assessments are not the tools to manage robust recreational fisheries.
- Rebuilding targets and timelines should be based on biological criteria that is tied to the biology of the species rather than tied to an arbitrary time frame.
- Allocations between the recreational and commercial sectors remain a critical component of fisheries management that is virtually ignored by current federal managers.
- State-based fishery management has proven to be far more effective than federal fisheries management in many fisheries and it would be highly productive to develop procedures for inter-jurisdictional coastal state management of marine species where appropriate and beneficial.
“It is clear that the issues of the recreational community cannot be ignored in the next iteration of Magnuson-Stevens,” said Sen. Rubio. “I am committed to reforming the law so that it works for every fisherman in Florida and across the United States – the commercial fishermen, the recreational fishermen, and the charter fishermen all alike.”