Posts Tagged Magnuson-Stevens Act

Oct 25 2017

Testimony of Ray Hilborn to U.S. Senate subcommittee

Testimony of Ray Hilborn to U.S. Senate subcommittee.



Subcommittee to Continue Hearing Series on Magnuson-Stevens Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will convene the hearing titled “Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: Fisheries Science,” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. The hearing is the fourth of the series and will focus on the state of our nation’s fisheries and the science that supports sustainable management.


– Mr. Karl Haflinger, Founder and President, Sea State, Inc
– Dr. Ray Hilborn, Professor, University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
– Dr. Michael Jones, Professor, Michigan State University Quantitative Fisheries Center
– Dr. Larry McKinney, Director, Texas A&M University Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on

Sep 15 2016

RELEASE: Ten Years after Magnuson-Stevens Act, U.S. Fisheries are the Best Managed in the World


Washington, D.C. — United States fisheries are the most sustainably managed in the world. Critical legislation has governed federal fisheries for the past four decades, and the enactment of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act, or MSRA, 10 years ago provided science-based management measures that have maintained the health of the U.S. ocean ecology and economy.

However, it is time to think about what comes next for the U.S. fisheries industry. The Center for American Progress has released a report looking at the successes of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and offering science-based recommendations to maintain and improve the health of U.S. fisheries over the next 10 years. The report was released at an event on the legacy of the MSRA featuring former Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco; Maria Damanaki, global managing director for oceans at the Nature Conservancy; and Margaret Spring, vice president of conservation and science at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

“It is no fluke that U.S. fisheries are among the best managed in the world,” said Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy at CAP and co-author of the report. “The success of our science-based fishery management regime that has evolved over four decades of legislative oversight has made the resource far more sustainable while sustaining coastal economies. Now in the 21st century, federal fisheries face daunting challenges, including ocean warming and acidification stemming from climate change. The MSRA and its predecessors have made U.S. fisheries the healthiest in the world but it is now time to update these efforts to ensure their sustainability into the next century.”

The paper makes the following recommendations:

  • Regulators should work to account for changes in fishery dynamics that fishermen around the country are already experiencing as a result of climate change, including ocean acidification and warming.
  • Ecosystem-based management should be prioritized as a tool to facilitate a holistic fisheries management.
  • To increase accountability and data collection, NOAA should aggressively pursue the development and deployment of electronic monitoring systems for fishing vessels.
  • Congress should appropriate additional funding for ocean observation and baseline research to facilitate data collection and stock assessment science.
  • Using the MSRA’s strong international provisions, the Obama administration should finalize regulations aimed at curtailing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing abroad.
  • U.S. leaders and government officials should press the International Maritime Organization to expand application of its vessel monitoring and registration standards to include all fishing vessels operating on the high seas.

Click here to read the report.
Click here to watch the live stream of the event.

Mar 31 2015

Rep. Don Young’s MSA Reauthorization Bill Focused on Flexibility and Science

Copyright © 2015 — Reposted by permission of

SEAFOODNEWS.COM  [Alaska Journal of Commerce]  By DJ Summers  –  May 26, 2015



Taking the lead on legislation he’s been involved with since it first passed in 1976, Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young introduced a bill March 4 to reauthorize and amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

The act, or MSA, governs all U.S. federal fisheries, which take place in the exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, between three and 200 miles off the coast. The MSA was most recently reauthorized and updated in 2006.

Young introduced H.R. 1335 on March 4 with three regional cosponsors: Reps. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., and Amata Coleman Radewagen, R-American Samoa.

Young’s proposed version of the MSA is titled the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.” His philosophy is to let the councils, who have more intimate understandings of their stocks and more responsiveness than the Department of Commerce, have more control of their respective operations, and to update the act to account for better scientific governance and more attention to economic effects.

The revised act has several amendments regarding stock rebuilding protocols, council transparency, catch limits, pollock cooperative quota limits, the definition of “overfished” or depleted stocks, data collection, MSA authority in relation to other federal responsibilities, and the definition and role of subsistence.

The MSA governs eight regional councils in the federal waters off the U.S. coast. Alaska’s waters, fished mainly by fishermen from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest states, fall under the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s authority.

Some changes make provisions for more flexible planning. The plans for rebuilding depleted fisheries will remove the current mandatory 10 years for rebuilding plans and allow councils to phase in rebuilding plans over a three-year period to limit damaging effects to fishing economies.

Some changes expand the MSA’s authority to govern fisheries according to economic needs as well as biological. Under one amendment, councils may take into consideration “changes in an ecosystem and the economic needs of the fishing communities” when establishing annual catch limits.

Moving away from overfishing as the main term for depleted stocks is a key part of the new MSA’s revisions to scientific policy.

“They blame any decline in stock to overfishing,” said Young. “That’s not true. There could be climatic changes; there could be something else. We want to give (councils) a more scientific basis.”

Stock rebuilding plans will account for more causes than overfishing, such as predation and environmental variations.

Young’s reauthorization would replace all uses of the word “overfished” with the word “depleted.” Annual reports “shall distinguish between fisheries that are depleted (or approaching that condition) as a result of fishing and fisheries that are depleted (or approaching that condition) as a result of factors other than fishing.”

The distinction is important, as some stocks will decline in the total absence of fishing. Young said his attention was first brought to the difference between terms in the western Aleutian Islands, where certain stocks like Atka mackerel were depleted not due to overfishing, but predation by Steller sea lions.

Some provisions offer more control in setting harvest use caps. In an amendment specific to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, Young has authorized the council to set the maximum Bering Sea Pollock harvest use cap for “individuals, corporations, or other entities,” such as cooperatives at no more than 24 percent compared to the previous use cap of 17 percent.

Young said the amendment is intended to allow for profitability for pollock fleets but not over-consolidate to the point of excluding entry into the fishery.

Young’s reauthorization also includes a kind of declaration of sovereignty for the act’s authority to govern fisheries. Under one amendment, any conflict between the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act or the Antiquities Act of 1906 will fall under the authority of the MSA. Any required changes to fisheries under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 will also fall under MSA authority to examine and implement.

“As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that manages fish is the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” said Young. “Not the Antiquities Act. Not monuments. When they set an area off for the Antiquities Act that drives out commercial fishermen, they’re managing for fish. It’s an attempt to get commercial fisheries out of the ocean. They’ll deny it, but they know it.”

Young has vocally opposed the executive authority under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act and the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish monuments and antiquities that amount to national parks or wildlife refuges, such as the recently-nominated President Barack Obama proposed on Jan. 25 to set 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, aside as wilderness, effectively halting any oil development. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young all drafted letters of disapproval.

On Jan. 27, Obama also designated 9.8 million acres of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas as a marine sanctuary, halting oil and gas leasing in those areas as well as ANWR. In 2014, Obama used his power under the Antiquities Act to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine Sanctuary.

Only days before the ANWR designation, on Jan. 22, Young introduced H.R. 330. The bill would restrict the president’s authority to independently create national monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Council process will be altered to provide for more public transparency and involvement. Council Scientific and Statistical Committees “shall develop such advice in a transparent manner and allow for public involvement in the process.”

The Department of Commerce will maintain a public archive of all Scientific and Statistical Committee audio, video, and transcripts.

Each council itself will be required to make available on its website a webcast, audio recording, or live broadcast of each meeting. Each will also provide audio, video, or a searchable audio or written transcript of each meeting of the Council and of the meetings of committees within 30 days of the meeting’s conclusion.

Any proposed fishery requires a fishery impact statement before implementation. Under Young’s amendment, the impact statement shall “assess, specify, and analyze the likely effect and impact of the proposed action on the quality of the human environment.”

Each statement shall be made available to the public not les than 14 before the final decision takes place.

Another broadly-focused amendment concerns data collection and confidentiality. The amendment would require that the Secretary of Commerce issue regulations for electronic monitoring, and allow for the replacement of onboard monitors with electronic monitoring, if the council has determined that electronic monitoring yields comparable results to the observer program. All regulations regarding electronic monitoring must be issued within one year of the MSA’s reauthorization.

Catch shares in certain regions will require a more democratic process. In the New England, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico, all catch shares will require a referendum approval by the majority of permits holders eligible to take place in the fishery. In New England, the referendum may include fishing crew members who earn a significant portion of their livelihood from fishing.

Specific to Alaska, Young defines subsistence in his reauthorization, and provides for subsistence fishing experience as criteria for North Pacific council seat selection.

Subscribe to | read original post here.

Peggy Parker, Science and Sustainability Editor 1-781-861-1441

Mar 19 2015

Ray Hilborn’s Commentary on Capitol Hill: Magnuson Has Given the US Sustainable Seafood

SEAFOOD.COM   [The Hill]  (Commentary)  By Ray Hilborn  –  March 17, 2015
Copyright © 2015 | Published by permission

alaskafishingboatHilborn published an opinion column today in the Hill, a newspaper targeting Congress and Congressional Staff.  He makes the case that with the Magnuson Stevens Act the US has acheived sustainable fisheries.

This year marks 40 years since the passage of landmark Congressional legislation that fundamentally overhauled how the $90 billion U.S. commercial fisheries industry is managed. It established a unique public-private partnership in which the industry, working with scientists and both federal and local authorities, would regulate fishing according to agreed-upon scientific standards for environmental sustainability, even as the industry stretched to meet skyrocketing demand for seafood. As the world’s marine science and fisheries experts convene in Boston this week at the International Boston Seafood Show, the implications of the bold decisions taken in 1976 on U.S. fisheries should be assessed in light of a race to the bottom of the seas elsewhere due to overfishing.

Prior to 1976, federal regulations for marine fisheries were virtually non-existent, leading to rampant exploitation of our oceans and fisheries. But the Magnuson Stevens Act changed that in two important ways. First, it eliminated foreign fleets from a 200-mile exclusive economic zone, reserving these waters for U.S. vessels alone. And second, it established a system of regional management councils to regulate federal fisheries, laying the foundation for a strict and transparent science-based approach to fisheries management that has enabled the U.S. to emerge as a model of seafood sustainability around the world.

Under the provisions of the Magnuson Stevens Act, regional fishery councils in the U.S. are required to use the best available science in setting harvest levels, identify and protect essential fish habitat, abide by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Act, and enact protections from fishing activities that are detrimental to other species.
Over the years, various amendments to the Magnuson Act have further refined and improved its structure. Most importantly, following the painful collapse of the nation’s oldest fishery—New England bottom fish, including haddock and redfish—significant amendments in 1996 resulted in a stronger focus on protecting habitats and establishing a requirement for a 10-year rebuilding timeline.

Today, the U.S. has essentially eliminated overfishing, with only 9 percent of stocks now fished at rates higher than would produce long-term maximum yield.  In a report released this month by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, 98 percent of U.S. fisheries received a “Best” or “Good” rating, with only 2 percent on the “Avoid” list. While 17 percent of stocks are still considered “overfished”, most of these are on the road to recovery.  And in New England, bottom fish stocks have made a spectacular recovery, having increased six-fold since the mid-1990s.

Technically speaking, some stocks will always be “overfished”  – fish stocks fluctuate naturally and the managers can only control what they harvest—but the U.S. management system, using scientific advice, is designed to take such fluctuations into account, and will completely stop harvesting when stocks reach low levels. Consumers and retailers should buy U.S.-caught fish with confidence that the fishery is managed through an open, transparent, and sustainable process.

However, consumers and retailers are often confused by the numerous non-governmental organizations providing consumer advice on what stocks are sustainably managed. Legitimate concerns about overfishing in the 1990s led to the rise of these watchdog NGOs, and today there are literally dozens of seafood advice web sites that provide often conflicting advice. A stock may be listed as a “best choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but still be on Greenpeace’s “red” list.  The same stock of fish may be rated “green” or “red” by the same organization depending on how it is caught.

Why the conflicting information? Quite simply, providing seafood advice is now a big business, both with direct payment from retailers to those giving advice, and by fundraising campaigns to “save the oceans” that fail to acknowledge that the existing U.S. fisheries management system provides for sustainability. Indeed, despite the fact that it is widely agreed among scientists, fisheries managers, and government regulators that U.S. fisheries are well managed, some NGOs now gain so much revenue from companies that sell seafood and concerned citizens, that they simply cannot admit the U.S. success.

The interests of marine stewardship are far better served should NGO’s direct their attention to places where fisheries management is not science-based and effective.  While there is always room for improvement, the U.S. has a system in place that can adjust to sustainability concerns, while many other countries do not routinely monitor the abundance of their fish stocks, nor have management systems in place to reduce harvest when abundance goes down.

Moving forward, the U.S. government and NGOs should promote the U.S. management system and its successes as a model for the world. The race to the bottom in countries that routinely overfish is ultimately self-defeating. Convincing fisheries that sustainability preserves jobs as well as stocks is a monumental task. But the U.S. has the benefit of 40 years of evidence—a thriving industry with one of the lowest levels of overfished stocks—to back it up.

Hilborn is a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington and author of “Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know.”

Subscribe to | Copyright © 2015 | Published by permission

Sep 18 2013

VIDEO: Dr. Ray Hilborn on Federal Fisheries Management and Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization

Saving Seafood

WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) — September 17, 2013 — Last Wednesday, Dr. Ray Hilborn, of the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources during a hearing on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Following his testimony on Capitol Hill, in which he adhered to the Congressional hearing’s five minute time limit, Dr. Hilborn sat down with Saving Seafood’s Executive Director Bob Vanasse for an in-depth discussion of his recommendations, and to give his presentation in full.

Dr. Hilborn explains how an emphasis by fisheries managers on eliminating overfishing has led government agencies to ignore other important aspects of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which mandate the protection of fisheries resources alongside concerns for the socio-economic well being of fishermen and their communities.

Dr. Hilborn aruges that  that the U.S. has largely “solved” the problems surrounding overfishing and that underutilization of the resource should be of greater concern to fisheries managers.

The video begins with Dr. Hilborn’s evaluation of U.S. fisheries policy under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, his recommendations for the reauthorization, and concludes with a question and answers.

Watch the full video here.

Read the original post here.

May 24 2012

California is Global Leader in Managing Forage Fish


Note: This article also appeared in the Santa Cruz SentinelNorth County TimesSalinas Californian, and online, on Saving Seafood and Science 2.0.




Written By Steve Scheiblauer


More than 150 years ago, immigrant Chinese fishermen launched sampans into the chilly waters of Monterey Bay to capture squid. The Bay also lured fishermen from Sicily and other Mediterranean countries, who brought round-haul nets to fish for sardines.


This was the beginning of the largest fishery in the western hemisphere – California’s famed ‘wetfish’ industry, imprinted on our collective conscience by writers like John Steinbeck.


Who doesn’t remember Cannery Row?


It was the plentiful schools of fish – especially sardines that stretch from the Gulf of California to Alaska during cycles of abundance – that provided opportunity for generations of enterprising fishing families to prosper. These families helped build not only Monterey, but the ports of many other California cities, like San Diego, San Francisco and San Pedro – the fishing hub of Los Angeles.


But now, this historic industry – named for the fish that were canned wet from the sea – is under attack by extremist groups who claim overfishing is occurring.   That allegation is false;  fishermen have long recognized that a sustainable fishery was good for both people and fish.


When the sardine resource began its storied decline in the late 1940s, wetfish fishermen levied an assessment on their catch and contributed to the beginning of the California Cooperative Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI).  A cooperative effort between the National Marine Fisheries Service, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Department of Fish and Game, CalCOFI now is one of the preeminent research efforts worldwide.


Research has since documented the dynamic fluctuations in coastal pelagic ‘wetfish’ stocks, including sardine and anchovy, which alternate their cycles of abundance – sardines favoring warm water epochs and anchovy preferring cold.


Core samples from an anaerobic trench in the Southern California Bight found alternating layers of sardine and anchovy scales over a period of 1,400 years.  Turns out, sardine stocks would have declined naturally even without fishing pressure.


Today the wetfish industry maintains its commitment to research with cooperative efforts ongoing for both sardine and squid.


Even though the canneries are gone due to their inability to compete on a now global marketing stage, our wetfish industry is still the backbone of California’s fishing economy – responsible for more than 80 percent of the volume and more than 40 percent of dockside value in 2010.


Fast forward to earlier this month, when an in-depth study by a panel of 13 hand-picked scientists provided recommendations on policies to protect forage fish – like anchovy, sardines and market squid – that larger species feed on.


The study by the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force concluded that overfishing of forage species is unfortunately occurring on a global scale.


But interestingly, these scientists also identified the west coast, as different, noting that California is, “ahead of other parts of the world in how it manages some forage fish.” The region has “stricter monitoring and more conservative limits that could serve as a buffer against future crashes.”


The Lenfest Report provides a strong case that forage fish are managed better in California and the Northern California Current than anywhere else in the world.  Overall, forage fisheries here account for less than two percent of total forage production (including both fished and unfished stocks), leaving 98 percent for other marine life.


Knowledgeable people understand that this is no accident. Fishing families have worked and are working with regulators to conserve California’s fisheries and coastal waters.


In fact, after a 20-year moratorium on sardine fishing, California adopted strict fishing regulations when the sardine resource rebounded. The federal government assumed management of coastal pelagic species in 1999 and approved a visionary management strategy for the west coast ‘forage’ fish harvest, maintaining at least 75 percent of the fish in the ocean to ensure a resilient core biomass. The sardine protection rate is even higher at about 90 percent.


Even so, some environmental groups are calling for deep and unnecessary cutbacks in sardine fishing in California, as well as substantial harvest reductions in other forage fish fisheries, including herring, anchovies and squid.


Touting studies with faulty calculations, activists are lobbying federal regulators to massively limit fishing, if not ban these fisheries outright.


Apparently the facts don’t matter to groups with an anti-fishing agenda. Their rhetoric leaves those not familiar with the fishing industry with the impression that overfishing is a huge problem in California.


We hope decision makers will see through the rhetoric when developing harvest policy for California’s historic, and still important, wetfish fisheries.


Ed’s Note: Steve Scheiblauer is the harbmaster for the city of Monterey.


Read the full opinion piece online on Capital Weekly.

Apr 18 2012

How Well, and How Poorly, We Harvest Ocean Life

Written by Cornelia Dean | Science Writer
Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know. Ray Hilborn, with Ulrike Hilborn.
To hear some other people tell it, many depleted stocks are recovering nicely.

Ray Hilborn, a fisheries scientist at the University of Washington, wades into this disagreement in his new book and comes out with a lucid explication of a highly tangled issue.

Each argument, he concludes, has some truth on its side. “It depends on where you look,” he writes. “You can paint horror story after horror story if you want. You can paint success after success.”

He navigates the path between horror and success through scores of questions and answers, nearly all of which demonstrate how difficult it is to sort this issue out.

Take the most basic question: What is overfishing? There are several answers, the book tells us. There is “yield overfishing,” in which people take so many fish that they leave too few to spawn or catch too many fish before they are grown. Then there is “economic overfishing,” in which economic benefits are less than they could be. If too many boats chase too few fish, for example, the struggle to make a good catch leads to overspending on boats, fuel and so on.

(There is also “ecological overfishing,” but that is something we must live with as long as we want to eat fish, Dr. Hilborn says. Fishing by definition alters the marine environment.)

Dr. Hilborn tells us of fisheries that succeed — like the halibut industry in Alaska — and fish stocks managed into difficulty, and then out again, like the pollock of the Bering Sea.

And he gets into the issue of trawling, in which boats drop weighted nets to the bottom and drag them along, scraping up everything in their path. Critics liken trawling to harvesting timber by clear-cutting. For Dr. Hilborn, this analogy is not always apt, since in some areas the creatures rapidly repopulate the ocean floor.

Some countries do well by their fish, he writes, but with one exception they are relatively small: New Zealand, Iceland and Norway. The exception? The United States.

The true lesson of this book is that fisheries science is complicated; that the management of any given species must be considered in terms of its ecosystem; that fishing for one species alters the food web as a whole — and that sometimes there is not enough data to make good recommendations.

Read the full book review on The New York Times.
Apr 13 2012

House Panel Drafting Magnuson Reforms

By Richard Gaines | Staff Writer

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee is drafting “a comprehensive” change to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, a fisheries management law, in an attempt to ensure that NOAA makes “informed decisions based on sufficient scientific information,” Chairman Doc Hastings has told the Times.

Incorporating elements from a suite of eight bills vetted by the committee last December, the federal legislation has been in construction by committee staff for some time — before a national fishermen’s rally at the Capitol last month and an April 3 letter to the committee from 21 House members. Those signers included John Tierney, who represents Cape Ann, and Barney Frank, whose district includes New Bedford.

A mix of about two dozen federal lawmakers of both parties and houses of Congress including Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown, spoke to the rally of the need for writing flexibility into the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Along with rewriting parts of and writing inserts to Magnuson, the committee is reported to be struggling with the problem of trying to fix misinterpretations of the overriding fisheries management law by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Crystal Feldman, the committee press secretary, said some problems with fisheries management have been created by NOAA’s interpretation of the law and not necessarily by the law itself, and that is harder to fix legislatively.

Similar complaints are at the core of a lawsuit initiated by the fishing ports of New Bedford and Gloucester and industry interests from Maine to North Carolina. That appeal is now before the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

Read the rest of the article on Gloucester Times.