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 PRESS RELEASE: 5/17/06

Bipartisan fisheries management bill
passes Resources Committee

WASHINGTON - The House Resources Committee today approved H.R. 5018, the American Fisheries Management and Marine Life Enhancement Act, sponsored by Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), on a vote of 26 to 15.

H.R. 5018 reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, initially passed in 1976, which oversees fisheries resources and fishing activities in Federal waters and established the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils responsible for the conservation and management of U.S. Fishery resources.

"After six years, 17 hearings and testimony from 143 witnesses, I am happy to finally pass a Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization bill out of the Resources Committee," Chairman Richard Pombo said. "I very much appreciate the effort from my colleagues to work together to create this compromise legislation. What we have is a solid bill to take to the House floor and, eventually, to conference with the Senate."

H.R. 5018 represents compromise legislation from all involved parties, including ideas from earlier bills, recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and many suggestions received by the Resources Committee during public hearings. It is modeled after the management framework of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which is widely cited as the best in the nation.

In fact, at a recent hearing, the North Pacific Fishery's executive director stated that H.R. 5018 "...contains clear direct language regarding the establishment of annual catch limits, including provisions regarding acceptable biological catch levels as recommended by the SSC. This reflects a model that has been used in the North Pacific for three decades, and I believe represents a significant strengthening of the conservation aspects of the [A]ct."

"I am pleased that the Resources Committee took this important step today toward passage of a balanced bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act, essentially as sponsored by Chairman Pombo and myself," Rep. Frank said. "I look forward to continuing our work leading to a new law that will provide the framework for an environmentally and economically sound fishing industry."

"I appreciate the work that Chairman Pombo has put into this bipartisan legislation.  While the bill does not go as far as I would like in a few areas, I understand that the Chairman has worked hard to create compromise legislation," Rep. Young said. "As the representative of the state where approximately 50 percent of all the seafood in the United States is landed, and where the North Pacific Council has been touted as the best of the eight regional fishery management councils, I appreciate the need to maintain the Council system and create an atmosphere where decisions can be made by those who are most affected by the management decisions. The North Pacific has no overfished fisheries and this is testament to the hard work for the fishery managers and the use of science in management decisions. This legislation encourages this type of management for all fisheries across the U.S."

More on H.R. 5018:

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

Most NEPA requirements are already part of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). H.R. 5018 adds the remaining two provisions to MSA that the Resources Committee heard in hearings were not currently in the law. The Secretary of Commerce would then make the determination if the MSA's provisions are equivalent to NEPA's provisions.

If the Secretary of Commerce concludes that the MSA's provisions are equivalent to NEPA's provision, the Secretary would have the discretion to decide if NEPA's provisions have been met once a Council has complied with MSA.

The executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council also agrees that NEPA should be streamlined with MSA, saying at a recent hearing that "[t]he NEPA process does not and never will fit the dynamic nature of fisheries management."

Rebuilding provisions

H.R. 5018 maintains the 10-year deadline to rebuild fish stocks, but allows the Secretary of Commerce to extend it beyond 10 years in certain cases only:

  • If the cause for diminished fish stocks is not related to fishing, i.e. environmental;
  • If the end goal for amount of fish to be replenished is changed within that 10 years (for example, if a fishery is seven years into a plan to rebuild its stock by 5,000 fish, and then is told it must increase its stock to 20,000 fish, it should have additional time to do so); and
  • If a multi-stock fishery only has one species that is diminished, the whole fishery should not have to be set back by strict provisions for just one species.

At an April 25 hearing in New Bedford, Mass., Dr. Steve Murawski, of the National Marine Fisheries Institute, agreed that the 10-year provision is arbitrary, saying that it " leaves us very little flexibility in terms of our realistic time lines and more based on species biology."

For more information on H.R. 5018, please click here.

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