Dec 3 2011

Begich, Murkowski, Landrieu, and Nelson introduce bill to modify Magnuson rules on setting ACL’s

A bill introduced by Florida Senators Nelson and Rubio, with fairly bi-partisan support is being rushed through both houses of Congress that would make a significant improvement to the federal fisheries management process.Co-sponsors include Oceans Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska); Congressional Sportsmens Caucus Co-Chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.); Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.); Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska); Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

The 2006 revision of Magnuson-Stevens required that NOAA set annual catch limits on all species, regardless as to whether there was scientific information to do so or not. The Regional Fishery Management Councils have to put in place ACLs for every fishery by Dec. 31, 2011. This provision has been interpreted to apply to every stock of fish under management, leaving Councils with the conundrum of either deleting stocks from federal management or applying highly restrictive ACLs based on very poor data – or in some cases, non-existent data.

NOAA presently has 528 stocks of fish or complexes of stocks under management. And there is updated stock assessment data on only 121 of the 528. The Fishery Science Improvement Act (FSIA) lifts the requirement to implement ACLs on stocks for which there is inadequate data and no evidence of overfishing. The legislation allows NOAA Fisheries to better conform to the intent of the 2006 reauthorization of MSA: ending overfishing based on sound scientific management.

The legislation directs NOAA Fisheries to set annual catch limits (ACLs) only on those stocks of fish for which they have up-to-date scientific information to inform that decision. The bill’s two conditions exempting a fishery from the ACL requirements are 1) the lack of a stock assessment in the prior six years and 2) the absence of any indication that overfishing is occurring. This will overturn the agency’s current interpretation that it must set ACL’s on all species, regardless as to whether it has any data or not.

Supporters of the bill have provided two examples of its positive impact with Mahi Mahi and North Pacific cod.

Read the rest on Saving SeaFood.



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