Something is rotten with H.R. 4742, the bill drafted by Representative Hastings, Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. This legislation, as currently drafted, would roll back key conservation provisions that made American fisheries management an unsurpassed science-based model for the world.
The Hastings bill would undermine keystone federal laws that help conserve and manage our public resources and natural heritage. The bill fails to advance ecosystem-based management and sets back efforts to address emerging challenges coming from decades of overfishing, habitat destruction and climate change.
H.R. 4742 reeks of unfounded fears of too much government meddling, despite much hard work by fishing industries with state and federal governments on the fisheries councils.
H.R. 4742 would allow fishery management councils to exempt many seafood species from the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s requirements to set science-based fishing limits and to rebuild depleted fish populations, the provisions that are most responsible for our success in restoring fish populations and ending overfishing.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act is the primary law governing conservation of U.S. ocean fisheries. Since 2000, 34 depleted fish populations have been rebuilt. Since 2000, the number of fish stocks subjected to overfishing (the problem of fish populations in specific ocean areas being fished faster than they can reproduce) has decreased from 72 fish stocks to 28. It should be only a matter of time, money and work before America has sustainable fisheries across the board.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides funding to count cod in the Gulf of Maine every three years. Yet, no funding is provided to count cod in the adjacent Georges Bank water a bit further offshore. As a result of a lack in federal funding the fishery council is blind-sided in the setting of cod catch allotments.
More funding for Magnuson-Steven Act implementation is needed. With federal funding haddock were researched when encountering a trawl net. Haddock swim with flounder and cod. As the net set about them, the cod and flounder swam down towards the bottom. Haddock swam to one side or the other, to evade the net, unsuccessfully. By modifying their gear and their practices fishermen are now sustainably fishing haddock without flounder and cod bycatch. Fisheries management succeeds with government money well spent.
We should build on the success of the law in restoring individual fish populations and incorporate a more comprehensive approach that protects ocean habitats, reduces wasteful bycatch, strengthens the management of forage fish (herring & menhaden) by accounting for the important role they play in ocean ecosystems, and requires ecosystem planning. These actions strengthen ocean ecosystems, support fish populations and support coastal communities all being assaulted by global warming, shifting currents and increasing ocean acidity.
Please oppose H.R. 4742. It is a bad bill that will undo hard-earned gains since the Magnuson-Stevens Act was first strengthened in 1996. H.R. 4742 will harm our nation’s fish, fisheries, and coastal communities.
We want to enjoy seafood guilt-free in the knowledge that our fisheries are the most sustainable in the world. We ask for your assistance in gaining increased federal funding to make that the reality. Thank you for attending to this great concern of ours.