Posts Tagged CWPA

May 16 2012

The 15th Annual Report to Congress on the Status of Stocks for 2011: A record number of rebuilt fisheries

Annual Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries


NOAA’s Fisheries Service has released the 15th annual report to Congress on the nation’s Status of Stocks.  More than any a previous year, the Status of Stocks report for 2011 underscores the strength of the science-based management process and demonstrates we are actively turning the corner on ending overfishing and rebuilding our nation’s fisheries.  A record number of stocks were declared rebuilt in 2011, with a decrease in both categories of overfishing and overfished determinations.


To read the full report, visit the NOAA’s website and download the report titled, “Status of Stocks 2011“.

Apr 7 2012

Conservation in the Anthropocene: A Breakthrough Journal Debate

In their Breakthrough Journal essay, “Conservation in the Anthropocene,” Peter Kareiva, Michelle Marvier, and Robert Lalasz showed that conservation is losing the war to protect nature despite winning the battle to create parks and game preserves. While the number of protected areas has risen, species in wild places have fallen. Conservationists must shed their 19th Century vision of pristine nature, the authors wrote, and seek a new vision, one of “a planet in which nature exists amidst a wide variety of modern, human landscapes.”

In a new Breakthrough debate, a host of passionate 21st Century conservationists, including Kierán SucklingPaul RobbinsRay HilbornLisa Hayward, and Barbara Martinez, face off with the authors over the resilience of nature, corporate partners, and the state of conservation today.

Of particular interest is the commentary submitted by Professor Ray Hilborn. You can read his response below, or click here to see Breakthrough Journal’s full debate.



Ray Hilborn

By Ray Hilborn

In “Conservation in the Anthropocene,” Peter Kareiva, Robert Lalasz, and Michelle Marvier argue that conservation needs to move beyond parks and protected areas. They stress that ecosystems are generally resilient to perturbation, and rather than being irreparably damaged by the slightest anthropogenic impact, ecosystems can both support biodiversity and produce sustainable goods and services. While their arguments and examples are drawn from terrestrial ecosystems, much of their article is relevant to marine ecosystems, my field of study.

Marine ecosystems are the new frontier for conservation. And much of the funding for new scientific work has been directed towards the establishment of protected areas. It’s important to note that while marine and terrestrial ecosystems share much in common, there are differences. One fundamental difference is the nature of human use. In terrestrial ecosystems, a dominant form of use is agriculture, which essentially rips out native ecosystems and replaces them with exotic species: crops, tree plantations, or grasses for grazing. Agriculture makes no pretense about preserving natural ecosystems.

In contrast, in marine ecosystems, we attempt to sustainably harvest the natural ecosystem. We leave the lower trophic levels—primary producers and most of their consumers—untouched, and exploit only the higher trophic levels. This has profound consequences. It means that even if the dreams of protecting 10 percent of the world’s ocean, as set out in the 1992 Convention on Biodiversity, were to come true, most marine biodiversity will remain outside the boundaries. The struggle to maintain biodiversity is in the total anthropocene ocean; it will never be achieved through protected areas.

The marine conservation movement has been slow to grasp this. Similarly, it has failed to see that closing areas to fishing does not eliminate fishing pressure, it simply moves it. When an area is closed, fishing efforts concentrate outside protected areas. Consequently, simple comparisons of abundance inside and outside of reserves as a measure of “success” are meaningless. The salient question to ask is what happens to the total abundance.

One study sought to answer this question by tracking trends in abundance inside and outside of a set of reserves established in the California Channel Islands.1 Of the species targeted by commercial and recreational fishing, abundance went up inside reserves and down on the outside. Since 80 percent of the habitat is outside of the reserves, the data suggest that the total abundance of the targeted fish species actually declined. The gains inside were more than offset by the decreases on the outside.

In the case of the Channel Islands reserves, the creation of a protected area had a negative impact on abundance. In many other cases, protected areas have little to no impact. Two of the most heralded successes of the marine conservation movement have been the establishment of large protected areas in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and the western Pacific US territories. If the measure of success is the amount of area proclaimed as protected, these are significant achievements. But if the objective is effective protection against real threats, the achievement is less because there was little, if any, human impact in those areas before protection.

There are many threats to marine ecosystems, including oil spills, exotic species, runoff from terrestrial sources, illegal fishing, excessive legal fishing, ocean acidification, and global warming. The marine parks movement does not recognize that most “protected areas” only “protect” from legal fishing, and not much else. Advocates argue that unfished ecosystems are more resilient to environmental perturbations such as exotic species, yet the same argument, if valid, must apply to areas outside of reserves. Since fishing pressure has been redirected to unprotected areas, those ecosystems ought to be more vulnerable to the same perturbation.

Kareiva et al. argue that the new conservation “requires conservation to embrace marginalized and demonized groups,” and perhaps no group has been so demonized by the environmental movement as fishermen. Terms like “roving bandits” and “rapers and pillagers” permeate the public discussion. But luckily this is changing. The new marine conservation movement recognizes that conserving biodiversity requires more than merely controlling fishing. Progressive NGOs are working with fishing groups rather than demonizing them, a transformation that has entered into in marine conservation debates that attempt to find new solutions to the environmental impacts of fishing.

Kareiva et al. close by stating, “Protecting biodiversity for its own sake has not worked. Protecting nature that is dynamic and resilient, that is in our midst rather than far away, and that sustains human communities—these are the ways forward now.” This is as true in the marine world as in the terrestrial. There is certainly a role for protected areas. But the bulk of marine biodiversity will always be in the dynamic areas outside of them, areas that must be sustainably managed as we go forward.

Ray Hilborn is a professor in the school of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington.

1. Hamilton, S. L., J. E. Caselle, D. P. Malone, and M. H. Carr. 2010. “Incorporating biogeography into evaluation of the Channel Islands marine reserve network.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.


Mar 28 2012

For California Fishermen, Squid Means Big Money

Capt Nick Jurlin's crew hauls squid aboard the Cape Blanco on their round trip from San Pedro to the western side of Santa Catalina Island. The catch is abundant -- and valuable. (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times)


















Written by Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times

Long before calamari reaches the table, crews set out from San Pedro and elsewhere to round up California’s most valuable catch. But environmentalists question whether the haul is too large.


As the sun sets over the ocean, the six crewmen on the Cape Blanco are starting a long night’s work off the far side of Santa Catalina Island, putting on orange slickers and hard hats to fish for the milky white mollusks that have become California’s most valuable catch.

Below the gentle waves off the side of the boat swims an immense school of market squid.

Capt. Nick Jurlin, pacing impatiently with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, is eager to pull in as much of it as possible.

Five nights a week, the third-generation fisherman from San Pedro steps into a pair of rubber boots and hunts for squid along the Southern California coast. The 50-year-old with spiky blond hair and wraparound sunglasses looks the part of a man who’s wrestled with nets in the salty air since he was a teenager — his arms are taut, his neck creased and weathered, his voice gravelly from going without sleep.

On a night like this, the 90-foot steel vessel can bring in as much as $50,000 worth of the seafood so popular worldwide that all but a fraction is shipped overseas to be served as calamari.

But for the Cape Blanco and dozens of squid fishing boats working out of ports like San Pedro and Monterey, the boom is an uncertain one. Doubts are emerging about how long one of California’s last remaining money fish will stay bountiful.

Though Jurlin and his crew are four hours from shore tonight, they are not alone.

Rocking in the waves around them are a dozen other purse seiners beginning the same ritual: encircling the darting mass of tentacled, hot dog-sized sea creatures with huge nets that will be cinched up like the drawstring of a purse.

A flotilla of smaller boats assists by following the swarms and coaxing them to the surface with 30,000-watt lanterns that light up the ocean with an otherworldly green and white glow.

On Jurlin’s signal, a deckhand swings a hefty metal bar above his head and slams it into a pelican hook, freeing a clunky metal skiff that plunges into the water and rumbles away, its motor filling the night air with exhaust.

Each man takes his position on the Cape Blanco’s deck, working among strained cables and ropes as thick as fire hoses. A hydraulic winch whirs, engines roar and propellers gurgle as a tangle of black netting, yellow floats and steel rings tumble into the water off the back of the boat. The skiff tows it all in a wide circle around the squid, trapping the school.

Most of the world’s market squid is harvested from California’s shallow waters, where they gather in enormous schools each year to mate, deposit their eggs on the seafloor and die.

Cold ocean conditions have drawn them in such numbers lately that fishermen have handily caught their 118,000-ton limit — enough to fill 60 Olympic-size swimming pools — and the state has shut them down early two years running. Surging demand in China, Japan, Mexico and Europe has boosted prices and launched a fishing frenzy worth more than $70 million a year.

The good times have drawn the attention of conservationists, who fear such abundant catches are threatening the foundation of a delicate marine food web. Groups like Oceana and Audubon California are pushing for new protections for squid, sardines, anchovies, herring and other small, schooling prey known as “forage fish.”

A bill moving its way through the California Legislature would require the state to leave more small fish in the water for seabirds, whales, dolphins and other natural predators to feed on.

Those like Jurlin, whose families have fished these waters for generations, say a smaller catch could be crippling.


During the squid season, Jurlin pushes off each afternoon from Terminal Island, where a few other purse seiners dock along a waterfront of weedy and abandoned lots where street names — Sardine, Cannery and Wharf — reflect a fish-packing industry that is largely gone.

He follows the squid from the Channel Islands to San Diego, setting out net after net and returning before dawn the next morning.

Tonight he motors along the backside of Catalina as his crewmen eat spaghetti and watch baseball in the galley. Many, like Jurlin, are the sons or grandsons of fishermen.

It isn’t long before they bring in their first net.

Frigid water falls in sheets from the net as it is pulled through a giant hydraulic pulley towering above the deck. The men pile it into a slippery mound, slowly corralling the squid closer to the boat.

Whether stacking rings or piloting the skiff, each crewman is dedicated to a single task. There is no conversation. It is dangerous, straining work, and they focus with intense precision.

By the time Jurlin and several deckhands reach over the side of the boat to gather the last bunches of loose net, their bright slickers are drizzled with black ink from the squid.

Fishing for squid can be good money, but it is unpredictable.

The boat’s owner, Tri Marine Fish Co., takes half the earnings, and the crew divides the rest. For a good night’s work, deckhands can earn well over $1,000 and the captain and engineer even more. On a bad night, they might catch enough to cover fuel.

In the off-season, the fishermen sew up nets, make repairs and paint the boats — without pay. A few months of the year, they make a little money fishing for sardines. But without squid, there are no big paychecks.

As luck would have it, the night’s first net bursts with an exceptional haul: 40 tons of squid.

“Everybody’s going to do real well tonight,” Jurlin tells the crew.

They lower a heavy metal pump into the thick stew, and the catch goes sloshing into the ship’s refrigerated wells below deck.

Once their catch is stowed, the crewmen hose off and light up cigarettes as the fog moves in.


A half century ago, the sardine was king of the sea.

In the 1930s and ’40s, the largest fishing industry in the Western Hemisphere centered on California’s harvest of the oily, silvery fish. Monterey was its capital, its crowded waterfront the backdrop for John Steinbeck novels such as “Cannery Row.”

But the boom went bust by mid-century as overfishing brought a devastating collapse.

Squid fishing exploded in the 1990s when worldwide demand jumped. Over the last decade, the California Department of Fish and Game has kept the fishery in check with catch limits, a ban on weekend fishing and a cap on the number of squid boats.

Squid come and go in cycles, streaming to shore when waters are cold and vanishing during warm El Niño periods. And they live just a year, making it difficult for scientists to assess the health of their population. Conservation groups, in saying current limits are too permissive, point to research saying those huge fluctuations make small species like squid particularly vulnerable to collapse.

The industry says California’s regulations already guard against overfishing and don’t need to be changed.


Standing at the helm in the dark, Jurlin studies a glowing grid of navigation screens and electronic fish finders.

He sips coffee and watches for diving birds and sea lions — nature’s squid detectors. He talks to himself to stay awake and keeps a running dialogue on the radio with friendly boats to gather intelligence on fishing spots.

Like many fishermen here, Jurlin is a descendant of immigrants, born into the profession.

His grandfather was an illegal immigrant from Croatia who jumped ship in Canada and made his way to San Pedro to fish almost a century ago. Jurlin’s father fished, and his grandmothers and mother packed tuna back when the San Pedro waterfront was alive with canneries.

Jurlin started working on Alaskan salmon vessels as a teenager and bought his first boat when he was 21.

Over the past 30 years, he and his wife have raised two daughters, bought a condo in downtown Long Beach and a second home in Arizona. Squid has paid for it all.

He has staked his future on being able to continue. When the first squid upswing hit 16 years ago, he bought his own seiner. During this boom he put his two sons-in-law aboard to learn the profession.

“We’ve been hitting it pretty good, but it’s sustainable,” he says. “We get a bad rap from the environmentalists. They’ll tell us there’s no fish, and we’ll come out here and see incredible amounts. They say we want to rape and pillage the ocean. But this is our livelihood.”

As is so often the case lately, Jurlin and his crew are catching so much squid so quickly that it strains buyers in San Pedro, who can only fit so much in their freezers.

So tonight, each vessel can load up with just 70 tons before returning to the docks, where workers will pump the squid ashore and slop it into plastic-lined boxes. Forklifts will wheel it into warehouse-sized blast freezers, where it will be prepared for shipment to Asia. From there, it will be processed and shipped around the world, some back to restaurants in California.

It’s just before midnight when the captain of a fellow squid boat, the Ferrigno Boy, radios to report he has caught too much. Could the Cape Blanco suck up the surplus?

“Okey-dokey,” Jurlin responds, setting down the radio. “That’s it. Another day in paradise.”

Read the article on Los Angeles Times.
Mar 26 2012

Estimated 1,000 Fishermen Rally for Reform in Protest Staged in Nation’s Capital

Recreational and commercial fishermen gather on Capitol Hill  on Wednesday to call for reform of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act. AP Photo 

Written By By Don Cuddy

Around 1,000 commercial and recreational fishermen from around the country gathered near the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to call attention to the regulatory difficulties facing the fishing industry on the East and West coasts.

The rally, billed as Keep Fishermen Fishing, was organized to seek reforms to the Magnuson Stevens Act, the law that governs fishing in federal waters.

Fishermen and industry groups have long complained that inflexible and onerous regulations are hampering their ability to fish and forcing some independent fishermen to abandon their traditional way of life.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell was among those who spoke at the rally. “There was a great show of support from the fishing community and a big turnout from Congress,” he said. Several senators and around a dozen House members spoke at the gathering, according to the mayor, including a large New England delegation that included Massachusetts Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown and Reps. Barney Frank, John Tierney and Bill Keating.

Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter, running against Keating for Congress in the 9th District, also spoke.

Mitchell, who estimated the crowd at 1,000, focused his remarks on the need to keep fishermen in New England on the water by adopting greater flexibility in the rigid timelines established for rebuilding fish stocks.

“We need regulations geared to the reality at sea and we need more money for research and better stock assessments,” he said.

Read the rest of the article on SouthCoastToday.


Mar 7 2012

Abundant Sacramento and Klamath Salmon Drive Season Options

Photo of the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting to develop season options courtesy of the PFMC.

Written By Dan Bacher 

In the Klamath River, biologists are forecasting four times more salmon than last year – and an astounding 15 times more than in 2006, according to the PFMC. The ocean salmon population is estimated to be 1.6 million adult Klamath River fall Chinook, compared to last year’s forecast of 371,100.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) at its meeting in Sacramento on March 7, encouraged by predictions of plentiful salmon returns along the West Coast, released three alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries including those based on Sacramento River and Klamath River stocks.

In all three alternatives, the recreational ocean salmon season is slated to open on April 7 in the Fort Bragg, San Francisco and Monterey areas, from Horse Mountain to the U.S./Mexico Border. There are three opening date alternatives – May 1, May 12 and May 26 – for the Oregon and California Klamath Management Zones.

After hearing public comment on the alternatives, the Council will make a final recommendation at their next meeting in Seattle on April 1-6.


Read the full article on AlterNet.


Feb 27 2012

KION Radio: Monterey’s Harbormaster on Protecting Fishing in California

Steve Scheiblauer, Harbormaster of Monterey 

Steve Scheiblauer, Monterey’s harbormaster, discusses environmental groups efforts to stop a lawsuit that aims to massively curtail sport and commercial fishing in California on KION 1460 AM in Monterey, CA.


Listen to the interview online.

Feb 22 2012

Local Municipalities, Fishing Interests Intervene in Lawsuit to Protect Fishing in California

Groups Aim to Stop Extremist Lawsuit Seeking Drastic Cuts in Fishing Quotas

Monterey, Calif. – The California Wetfish Producers Association, a non-profit association promoting sustainable marine resources and fishing communities, announced today that it is working with a diverse group – including the City of Monterey and the Ventura Port District – to challenge a federal lawsuit by Oceana that would decimate California’s historic wetfish industry.

The group filed to intervene as defendants in the ongoing case by Earthjustice, representing Oceana, against the Secretary of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Oceana wants deep and unnecessary cutbacks in sardine fishing, as well as substantial harvest reductions in other “forage fish” fisheries, including herring, anchovies and squid – which are also already managed strictly and sustainably.

“Fishing for coastal pelagic species in California is under attack. Oceana has based this lawsuit on pseudo-scientific studies loaded with faulty calculations and conclusions, all to force federal regulators to massively curtail fishing limits, if not ban fishing outright,” said Diane. Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association. 

“That’s why a diverse group representing cities and ports, as well as fishing families, including fishermen and seafood processors, has come together to help block this extremist lawsuit,” Pleschner-Steele continued. “In this tough economy, we can’t afford to destroy this historic fishing industry and the local economies in which it operates, especially when the action is not based on the best available science.”

Oceana’s lawsuit claims that sardines and other so-called forage species are being massively overfished. Ironically, California’s coastal pelagic fisheries have one of the lowest harvest rates in the world.  Further, fishery management in California and, the California Current Ecosystem is recognized as one of only a few areas worldwide deemed ‘sustainable’ by internationally recognized scientists, according to a 2009 Science magazine article, Rebuilding Global Fisheries, and other recent studies.

“Oceana’s lawsuit is baseless; California already has the most precautionary fishery management system in the world. If successful, this lawsuit would restrict our state’s fishermen unnecessarily, and unfairly, because virtually all the forage species listed are actively managed or monitored by the federal government as well as the state,” said Steve Scheiblauer, Monterey’s harbormaster.

The state and federal government established guidelines more than a decade ago for coastal pelagic species harvested in California and on the west coast, maintaining at least 75 percent of the fish in the ocean, far below the science standard set for other fisheries.

The sardine protection rate is even higher at close to 90 percent. In addition, California implemented a network of marine reserves in state waters through the Marine Life Protection Act.  Many reserves were established explicitly to protect forage for other marine life, including important bird rookery and haul out areas around Año Nuevo and the Farallon Islands, as well as the Channel Islands in Southern California. In addition, more than 30 percent of traditional squid harvest grounds are now closed in reserve.

“Oceana failed to get a bill passed in California’s state legislature last year, so now they are trying the federal courts to get their agenda implemented,” said Scheiblauer. “Legislators on both sides of the political aisle saw through the ill-crafted bill, AB 1299, and it died because legislators knew it would have unnecessarily decimated local coastal economies like Monterey.”

About California Wetfish Producers Association

The California Wetfish Producers Association strives for sustainable fishery resources, access, education and scientific research. Find more info at

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Jan 4 2012

Anglers Getting Hit with Fishing Closures and Higher Fees

Written by Ed Zieralski | Outdoors Reporter

Ocean fishermen who fish waters off Southern California and Mexico are about to be hit with a double whammy, the likes of which no one has ever seen.

In the U.S., a network of fishing closures in the South Coast Region from Point Conception in Santa Barbara to the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego take effect Jan. 1. But even before that, anglers who fish in Mexican waters are likely to see increased fees for a required visa to fish in Mexico. The visa will be required in addition to a Mexican fishing license or permit.

Mexico City officials are expected to announce soon some sweeping new regulations regarding visas for foreign fishermen who visit Mexican waters.

American officials and representatives have been working the past two months to clarify what additional fees fishermen will need to pay to keep fishing in Mexico, and word Thursday was that an announcement is imminent. The information is expected to spell out the fees and documents necessary to fish in Mexican waters. An official with the Sportfishing Association of California, which represents passenger sport boats in Southern California, confirmed that news is expected very soon.

In addition to those extra costs to fish Mexico, ocean anglers also are facing the start of the Marine Life Protection Act’s South Coast fishing closures, set to take effect Jan. 1. Combine those new marine reserves that prohibit fishing with the regularly-scheduled, two-month closure for rockfish, also on Jan. 1, and that’s going to reduce further the fishing grounds. The rockfish closure makes it a triple whammy.

Read the rest of the story on the San Diego Union-Tribune.



Jan 4 2012

Will expanded SoCal marine reserves work?

California spiny lobsters are the subject of a study by San Diego scientists and lobstermen to assess the impact of marine reserves on sealife. - Photo courtesy of California Sea Grant


 Written by Mike Lee | Science-and-Environment Reporter


Hotly contested fishing restrictions take effect across Southern California waters on Sunday, when stretches of ocean offshore of La Jolla, Point Loma and elsewhere will be closed to harvest.

New and expanded sanctuaries were designed to improve marine life and coastal ecosystems, but there’s sharp disagreement about how well they will work.

That debate has spurred a multimillion-dollar network of research projects designed to look across several species and types of habitats — an initiative that includes an unusual alliance between lobstermen and San Diego scientists.

Despite harvesters’ dislike of no-fishing rules, some of them are helping tag tens of thousands of lobsters in the expanded reserve system so their growth and movement patterns can be tracked.

“It’s in everyone’s best interest to establish a good baseline,” said Rodger Healy, president of the California Lobster and Trap Fishermen’s Association, who is based in Dana Point. “It seems like it’s working. Hopefully, this is something that is going to be a template for the future.”

Like many other recreational and commercial fishermen, Healy distrusted the reserve-setting process, which started in Southern California three years ago and included several emotionally charged public meetings. Ocean “users” said the process was rigged against them, while conservation groups urged larger off-limits zones.

In the end, the state Fish and Game Commission adopted 52 marine protected areas and special closures that cover roughly 354 square miles of state waters. That’s about 15 percent of the nearshore region from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Efforts by some anglers to invalidate the process in court so far have failed, leaving lobstermen such as San Diego-based Shad Catarius to fret about their livelihoods. He figures he’ll lose a third of his income when traps are outlawed in customary harvest spots and open zones become more crowded.

“Instead of there being 100 traps in an area, you could have 200 or 300 traps,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of tempers out there.”

Read the rest of the story on the San Diego Union-Tribune.



Dec 8 2011

Reforming the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 2006

Written Testimony of

Rick E. Marks

Hoffman, Silver, Gilman & Blasco

Arlington, Virginia


Reforming the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 2006


To the

Committee on Natural Resources

United States House of Representatives


December 1, 2011

Chairman Hastings, Ranking Member Markey and distinguished Members of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about reforming the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 2006 (MSA).  I am Rick Marks, a principal at Hoffman, Silver, Gilman & Blasco P.C. (“HSGB”) of Arlington, VA. Our fisheries clients operate in many regions around the nation. Prior to joining HSGB, I was appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to serve on the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and worked as a marine fish biologist for the State of North Carolina. I worked for NOAA as a Fishery Reporting Specialist and a Benthic Field Technician. I hold a Masters Degree in Marine Environmental Science with emphasis in Coastal Fish Ecology and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology. I have authored scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals regarding various aspects of finfish ecology. I am currently working on professional certification in Environmental Conflict Resolution with the Morris K. Udall Foundation in Arizona.

Mr. Chairman, for the record my comments here today are solely my own as an advocate for the commercial seafood industry. Please note my testimony reflects issues critical to many of my clients whom operate in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Florida (both coasts, and the FL Keys), New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.

(1) Need for MSA Reform

The 2006 MSA Amendments fundamentally altered the way domestic fishery resources are managed. The new provisions focused on ending overfishing, rebuilding stocks, reducing fishing capacity, and developing limited access programs — all in the context of a more intensive reliance on fisheries science in the decision-making process. The changes created higher demands on science and management. Requirements to end overfishing added a whole new layer of requirements and tighter deadlines have created premiums for resources and increased dependence on short-term monitoring of annual catch limits and quotas. In sum, the new MSA demands are high and the federal government is struggling to meet those demands within a restrictive budgetary situation.

The fact that the Committee is considering eight bills targeting MSA reform is a clear indication serious problems precipitated from the 2006 authorization. Historically, MSA reauthorizations occur about every 10 years so the sheer number of bills introduced thus far further supports the need for comprehensive reform, sooner rather than later.

In 2009 NOAA revised the National Standard One Guidelines (NSG1) requiring the Regional Fishery Management Councils (RFMCs) to consider both scientific and management uncertainty when setting quotas. The revisions were designed to prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, and achieve optimum yield (OY).  For the 2006 reauthorization to work it requires a heavy reliance on high quality scientific information. Unfortunately, this is information that in most regions we simply do not have. Juxtaposition of insufficient data with consideration of uncertainty in the quota setting process results in larger precautionary buffers and lower yields at the expense of the industry and our nation. In addition, proliferation of unpopular catch share programs has fanned the flames of reform.

NOAA currently manages 528 stocks of fish. Of this total, roughly 114 are considered adequately assessed by the agency. Most of the 114 assessments (approx. 80) occur regularly on economically important stocks in Alaska and New England. In other regions, the assessment periodicity is reportedly far less, accounting for approximately 15 per year in the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic and Caribbean combined (Angers 2011). Thus, a large majority of fish stocks are data poor or not adequately assessed at all with the result being uncertainty trumping opportunity for additional fishery yields.

Congress clearly intended for science-based decision-making to be the order of the day. In theory, I agree with this premise but in reality, our fishing industry is paying dearly for the lack of adequate science. We built an implementation model that exceeds our scientific capabilities. We need this Committee to consider comprehensive MSA reform at the earliest possible time to effectively rebalance our management system.

(2) Comments on Current MSA Legislative Reform Efforts   

H.R. 594: “The Coastal Jobs Creation Act of 2011” (Rep. Pallone-NJ): This legislation would create a national grant program with a specified list of qualified activities and funding criteria. On a positive note, if funded, the legislation could provide grant opportunities to improve science-based decision-making. However, this depends on how the specific guidelines are crafted — the Secretary of Commerce is given sole responsibility to develop them within 30 days. Based on industry’s recent experiences with implementation of the MSA, National Ocean Policy, Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning, National Catch Share Policy, and the most recent 2011 National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Bycatch Engineering Grant Program (which was disbursed solely to catch share program proponents), it is unclear which of the 13 qualified activities would be consistent with NOAA philosophy and is therefore problematic absent more detail.

H.R. 1013: “The Strengthen Fisheries Management in New England Act of 2011” (Rep. Keating-MA): The U.S. Department of Commerce Office of the Inspector General issued report No. OIG-19887 on January 12, 2010. The report detailed OIG concerns regarding, among other things, NOAA’s retention of civil penalties and its Asset Forfeiture Fund (AFF). Clearly, NOAA has the statutory authority to retain such relevant proceeds. However, the OIG noted concerns about internal controls and questions about how such resources were being expended. Congressman Keating’s responsiveness to the OIG report is to be commended. I agree with the basic idea of H.R. 1013; to provide a transparent separation between fines/penalties/seizures and program operations, to remove the direct incentive for excessive fines, and to use AFF monies for improving fisheries management.

I note two concerns here. First, if all the funds are shifted from the AFF then NOAA will have to fund the program from somewhere else in its continually shrinking budget. I am concerned that scientific funding may suffer in this transaction and we may end up no better in the bargain.  Second, the bill is New England-centric in that it specifies improving fisheries research in the waters off New England for fisheries under the jurisdiction of the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC).  However, it is important to note here the NEFMC has sole jurisdiction for some fisheries that extend deep into the Mid-Atlantic region (e.g. Atlantic scallops, New England groundfish, Atlantic herring) and joint jurisdiction with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) for species such as Atlantic monkfish. H.R. 1013 should be combined with H.R. 2610 to develop a more comprehensive approach.

H.R. 1646: “The American Angler Preservation Act” (Rep. Runyan-NJ): H.R. 1646 is the most comprehensive MSA reform legislation before the Committee. There are a number of provisions contained in this legislation that have merit and should be considered (specifically or conceptually) for inclusion in a comprehensive MSA reform package. First, the bill endeavors to add oversight to the SSC process through a peer review trigger, risk-neutral decision making, and requiring the SSC to file research recommendations with Congress. At the October 27, 2009 hearing on the “Implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and Conservation Management Reauthorization Act of 2006” Representative Rob Whitman (R-VA-1) questioned then NOAA/NMFS Chief Science Advisor Dr. Steve Murawski about the need for SSC oversight. Dr. Murawski replied that “None was planned but that it is a good idea” (Murawski, 2009). I too support the concept of adding SSC oversight.

H.R. 1646 contains similar provisions regarding stock rebuilding flexibility included in H.R. 3061, further indicating there are ongoing problems with this component of the MSA, at least in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Mr. Runyan’s bill also reforms the Fisheries Disaster Relief provision contained in Section 312 by requiring the Secretary to make a determination within 60 days after the Secretary receives a request. I agree with this provision since Section 312 currently applies no time constraint for the Secretary to render a declaration, leaving constituents in dire economic situations with little recourse.

The Secretary closed the entire Gulf of Mexico snapper-grouper fishery to protect sea turtles for 5 consecutive months starting in May, 2009. The Governor of Florida issued a formal request to the Secretary for a fisheries disaster declaration along with 350 members of the Florida fishing industry who also submitted a letter of support. The Secretary did not respond to this situation until early 2011, nearly 18 months later, having determined that despite the hardship the industry survived the closure so no disaster declaration was necessary.

Furthermore, the Secretary is placed in the difficult position of being both the author of the regulations (that created the problem) and the decision authority on the remedy. There is also the complicating factor that disaster aid will come from the Department of Commerce budget. I believe this puts the Secretary in direct conflict and encourages delay in decision-making. To address this conflict it may be useful for the Committee to consider, in instances where the disaster is the direct result of fisheries regulations implemented by the Secretary, that the Small Business Administration (SBA) or some other relevant entity have input into the disaster determination.

H.R. 1646 contains some excellent catch share reform ideas (See also H.R. 2772 discussion below).  The critical elements of Rep. Runyan’s approach on catch shares that are absolutely necessary are to provide eligible fishermen with a petition and a final referendum on how they want to develop their fishery. Only in this way will the process be truly organic and industry-driven.

It is important to note here that catch share programs are not conservation tools, they are business plans and a type of social engineering. NOAA clearly recognizes this, stating in the National Catch Share Policy that “Taken together, ACLs and LAPs [limited access privilege programs] combine the positive benefits of a firm cap on fishery removals with the additional benefits of achieving important economic and social objectives….” (NOAA 2010). It is the social and economic relevance of a LAP that is all the more reason for the fishing industry to have an honest vote in the process.

H.R. 1646 contains a provision that requires additional discussion – the 5-year program termination unless the ongoing program is approved by a 2/3rds vote of the participants. There has been much discussion in the history of catch shares regarding the ability for the fishing industry to effectively finance the purchase (or lease) of catch share allocation. I am concerned that a firm sunset trigger might hamper financing opportunity and this issue must be thoroughly vetted before including such a provision in law.

That said, once a catch share program is implemented the law does not contemplate a clear process for removing it. Thus, a 2/3rds vote of the current participants to keep the existing program, concurrent with the plan review requirements of Section 303A(c)(G), may be the less intrusive but still effective approach to pursue with H.R. 1646.

Finally, H.R. 1646 provides a certification process for a fishery to be closed (including application to fisheries already closed under current law). In effect, the Secretary may not close a fishery that would have a direct or indirect affect on a specified number of businesses at a specified economic impact if certain scientific standards are not met. While I am not certain the certification process specified in H.R. 1646 provides the most perfect answer, there is great value in considering what information is necessary before the Secretary can completely close a fishery.

H.R. 2304: “The Fisheries Science and Improvement Act of 2011” (Rep. Wittman-VA):

I believe the basic premise of H.R. 2304 is on point but that we need to expand and refine some provisions before moving forward if we are to make this bill helpful to the entire regulated community. The basic idea of ensuring that NOAA bases management decisions on sound science is critical. The lack of credible science and subsequent use of the precautionary approach are major issues driving the need for MSA reform.

First, extending the ACL deadline to 2014 is moot since the species application requirements set forth in MSA Section 303 (as added by P.L. 109-479) specified deadlines in 2010 (for species subject to overfishing) and 2011 (for all others). The RFMCs (or the Secretary in the case of New England groundfish) have already developed ACL consistency amendments.

Regarding scientific improvements, there is great value in Rep. Whitman’s concept of up-to-date stock assessments and surveys as prerequisites for ACLs.  Many in the commercial, charter and sport fishing sectors believe the ACL/AM requirements are contrary to achieving OY and that quotas will be continually reduced due to scientific uncertainties to compensate for avoiding overfishing at any cost and achieving rebuilding in as short a time as possible.

The Atlantic monkfish fishery along the U.S. East Coast is an excellent example of how poor science (assessments and surveys) can negatively impact the fishing industry, especially when layered with precautionary decision-making. It also illustrates the benefits of improved science. In 1999, the NEFMC developed the initial fishery management plan for monkfish and proposed to permanently close the directed monkfish fishery, citing concerns that the stock was so small it could not sustain a directed fishery. The primary problem was that the NMFS survey vessels did not catch monkfish. Poor survey results (a.k.a. “best available science”) forced managers to conclude that the stock was in trouble.

A NOAA-industry cooperative monkfish bottom trawl survey was completed in 2001. The results of this survey proved that monkfish biomass was substantially larger than the estimate generated by the federal trawl surveys. Thankfully, the monkfish fishery continues but unfortunately, the data-poor condition persists. Annual quotas were set for the first 7 years of management using unreliable survey data. Thus, available fishing days for fishermen from New Jersey to North Carolina went from 40 days a year in 2000 to a low of 12 days in 2006. The quota was reduced from a high of 21,325,318 pounds in 2005 to a low of 8,084,353 pounds in 2006 – a precipitous near 40% decrease in one year due solely to a lack of reliable science and subsequent precautionary decision-making.

The approach embodied in H.R. 2304, if inclusive of “data poor” species, could provide relief from rigid ACL control rules in the absence of sufficient data. If not, fishermen will be continually subjected to precautionary decisions with no clear plan to address the lack of reliable scientific information.

H.R. 2304 also provides an exemption from the ACL requirements for “Ecosystem Stocks” (ES). Here again, I agree with the basic concept of exempting certain data poor and minor stocks from the ACL requirement but recommend some improvements to the bill before moving forward.  My recommendation would be to develop broader application that closely links scientific capabilities with the ACL/AM requirements. Rather than ES we should designate stocks into “core” and “minor” components based on clear metrics including value and scientific need. ACL/AM requirements could be applied to core stocks but for minor stock components, or for stocks where status is unknown or those in a data poor condition, the ACL/AM requirement need not apply or could be made less rigorous.

H.R. 2610: “The Asset Forfeiture Fund Reform and Distribution Act of 2011” (Rep. Frank-MA): In some ways similar to H.R. 1013, Representative Frank’s legislation is more comprehensive, addressing elements of reform in the wake of the OIG report on the AFF oversight, especially in the New England region but not solely in that region. Representative Frank recognizes and preserves the role of the individual States as well as the joint nature of the RFMC relationship.

Overall, I support the key provisions of H.R.2610 – reimburse any person who was treated unfairly by the federal government, provide a transparent separation between fines/penalties/seizures and program operations to remove the incentive for excessive fines, and use AFF monies for activities in direct support of sound fisheries management research where violations occurred. I note here NOAA subsequently revised the AFF Policy (See 76 FR 16386) but provided no funds in support of scientific activities. Also, I am concerned that with no other source of funding specified by Congress for OLE activities that funding for scientific work may be tapped which is unacceptable.

H.R. 2753: “The Fishery Management Transparency and Accountability Act” (Rep. Jones-NC): I support H.R. 2753. In this era of transparency there should be no need for such basic legislation. However, the 2006 MSA amendments and the idea to “separate politics from science”, ceded an unprecedented amount of authority to the RFMC SSCs. While each council operates differently, and the range of comfort in the regulated community varies from region to region, there is no reason why we should not require RFMC, SSC and Council Coordinating Committee meetings be widely available and archived.

H.R. 2772: “The Saving Fishing Jobs Act of 2011” (Rep. Runyan-NJ): Similar to H.R. 1646, Representative Runyan’s H.R. 2772 is in response to the groundswell of animosity against implementation of NOAA’s National Catch Share policy. It is important to note here this widespread opposition is not against the policy but rather, how it is being implemented. Many in the fishing industry consider the catch share process to be a rushed, top-down process. Indeed, NOAA indicated as early as December 2009 that “32 additional programs will begin development in FY 2012” (NOAA 2009).  Many fishermen also perceive the process to be tainted by Walton Foundation trust grants to NGO interests who may not have the best interests of the U.S. commercial fishing industry in mind. I agree with many of these perceptions and they exist as an industry reality.

Besides inadequate science undermining on our management system, the proliferation of catch share programs is presently one of the most problematic industry issues. Recently, 41 Members of Congress from 12 states filed letters with the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Committee expressing concern over the expansion of new programs in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and Gulf of Mexico. This level of concern is a strong indication there are serious problems with some of the existing programs and that the majority of fishermen in many regions do not wish to see these programs expanded into new fisheries absent a firewall in the form of a clear referendum process.

H.R. 2772 contains provisions identical to those in H.R. 1646 with two noted additions: (1) any new catch share program that results in a 15% reduction in the number of eligible fishermen is subject to termination; and (2) the 3% fee cap provision in Section 304 is replaced with a requirement for the program to cover all costs, including observer costs.

Regarding the 15% termination provision for newly created programs, I completely support Representative Runyan’s efforts to protect jobs. Catch share programs are widely reported to consolidate fleet size and reduce employment. However, in the event that a catch share program is supported by eligible fishermen via a transparent and fair petition and referendum, the 15% provision should not apply.

Regarding the requirement for fiscal responsibility, this could also be a valuable consideration in a perfect world where catch share programs are completely open, market-based systems where the responsibilities of management are balanced by the privileges of economically efficient harvest. However, that is not the case as programs are constrained by such things as ownership caps, ultra-conservative control rules, strict bycatch limitations, and excessive observer coverage requirements. As long as there is heavy government constraint on these programs the 3% cap limitation should apply. In situations where the system is based on a free market economy and eligible fishermen are fully aware of the programmatic costs prior to a final referendum vote the fiscal responsibility requirement should apply.

H.R. 3061: “The Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2011” (Rep. Pallone-NJ): While the RFMCs are given some flexibility to tailor their approaches to management plans the one area that remains rigid is in regard to stock rebuilding. The law still retains the requirement that rebuilding be completed in 10 years or sooner, if possible, rather than what is practicable. The RFMC chairmen supported adding an element of stock rebuilding flexibility during the 2006 reauthorization but their efforts were unsuccessful.

The 10-year deadline is completely arbitrary, has no basis in science, and its impacts may be worsened in data poor situations. We all agree that stocks must be rebuilt – we simply disagree on the time frame. It makes no practical sense to visit extreme hardship on coastal communities if a stock can rebuilt to the exact same level in 12, 15 or 18 years rather than in 10 years under more onerous restrictions. I believe by not including a clear flexibility provision in the MSA we missed an opportunity to inject some common sense into the management process.

H.R. 3601 requires each SSC submit an annual report detailing their scientific advice, condition of the assessment data, and recommendations for improvements. This reporting requirement will precipitate a more transparent scientific process.

Regarding suspension of the ACL requirements, H.R. 3601 allows the Secretary the option to suspend ACLs if the stock is not overfished, not approaching the overfished condition, is fully rebuilt, or if the scientific advice from the SSC is based on such a high level of uncertainty that is insufficient to ensure the fishery management plan is consistent with the components of National Standard 8 (See MSA Section 301(a)(8)). I agree conceptually with one core aspect of the ACL suspension issue – ACL control rules should not be set on data poor or minor stocks for which we do not have adequate information to make the necessary and timely determinations.

I also agree with the provisions in H.R. 3601 that require the Secretary to identify whether fishery management plans are having adverse economic impacts, for the Secretary to take actions as necessary to attempt to mitigate those adverse impacts, and for the Secretary to report to Congress on those actions. In the end these provisions may not ease all the socioeconomic pain stemming from necessary regulations but they may minimize the impact and encourage the Secretary to think creatively outside the regulatory box.

(3) Other Relevant Reform Issues That Should Be Considered By the Committee

Mixed Stock Exemption: A clear provision should be added to the MSA to allow the RFMCs to set a single ACL for a group of fish stocks that are commonly found in association with each other, often referred to as a mixed stock assemblage. Although this provision was a clearly defined component of the NSG for years the agency never implemented the tool. Often times, the availability of individual species within a mixed stock grouping will fluctuate and may be inconsistent with the ACL provisions. This is aggravated as stocks rebuild or in data poor situations or where monitoring is not timely. This situation prevents fishermen from accessing more abundant stocks and impedes our ability to achieve OY.

Statutory Exceptions for Trans-boundary and Short-lived Species (MSA Section 303 note): The MSA currently provides an exemption from the ACL/AM control rules for stocks managed under an international agreement in which the U.S. participates and also to a fishery for a species that has a life cycle of approximately one year that is not subject to overfishing. In my opinion this provision is too narrow in scope and does not address species that are truly trans-boundary in nature but lack a formal agreement, or are species whose life history characteristics prevent NOAA from being able to apply the ACL control rules in an efficient manner.

I provide here three examples where a clear case can be made for MSA control rule exemptions – Atlantic mackerel and Gulf of Mexico Spiny Lobster and Atlantic butterfish.  In the case of Atlantic mackerel, scientific evidence indicates the stock distribution is shifting into Canadian waters (Overholtz, 2011). Unfortunately, the U.S. has no formal trans-boundary sharing agreement and Canada takes what they can harvest. Unilateral U.S. management actions pursuant to MSA will not affect rebuilding or end overfishing but will disadvantage our fishermen and weaken the U.S. negotiating position.

While the U.S. opportunity to harvest mackerel was reduced by more than 80,000 metric tons (mt) since 2007 (from 115,000 mt to 34,907 mt) the Canadian government allows their fishermen to harvest most of the available quota since their fishermen are under no obligation to fish under MSA control rules. Due to the lack of a trans-boundary exemption, rigid interpretation of MSA requirements, confusion among fishery managers about whether or not the law requires the production of sustainable fishery yields or the application of layers of scientific uncertainty, the U.S. mackerel fishery (which is not overfished) has been severely restricted.  Thus, Congressional action is necessary to require the U.S. government to implement an Atlantic mackerel resource sharing agreement with Canada and provide the Atlantic mackerel fishery with an ACL exemption.

Regarding the State of Florida’s valuable Spiny Lobster (Panulirus agrus) fishery in the Gulf of Mexico, domestic fishermen account for a mere 6% of the total harvest. In fact, genetic evidence indicates that stock recruitment occurs entirely outside U.S. jurisdiction within the Caribbean Basin and waters of Southern Cuba, Brazil, Belize, Honduras and Columbia.  In 2011, NOAA’s Southeast Data Assessment Review (SEDAR) determined it was not possible to establish population benchmarks based only on the U.S. segment of the population (FKCFA 2011).  There is no formal Pan-Caribbean agreement to manage this international stock. Despite the trans-boundary characteristics of this stock coupled with insufficient data available to make a stock status determination, MSA requirements force the RFMC’s to set ACL/AM control rules for this species. Though the current ACL is sufficient there is real concern that scientific and management uncertainty will, over time, artificially reduce the allowable catch level. Spiny lobster should be exempt from the ACL rule.

I also agree with the statutory exemption provided for species with a short life cycle or unusual life history characteristics such as the Atlantic squids (Loligo and Ilex spp.), and warm-water species of shrimp. Allowing management flexibility for such species is appropriate and Atlantic butterfish is a perfect example. In 2004, NOAA determined that the butterfish stock was overfished and must be rebuilt in as short a time as possible but not to exceed 10 years. In 2010 NOAA determined the stock was not undergoing overfishing but could not determine if the stock was overfished. NOAA also concluded that the results of in 2004 were inaccurate and not suitable for management decisions.

Six years later, a rebuilding program is in place based on data that are insufficient to determine the condition of the stock. Given the fact that butterfish has a short lifespan (1-3 years), extremely high natural mortality rate, uncertain and variable survey indices, and an exceedingly variable catch level it is not possible to accurately determine the condition of the stock on a timely basis. These uncertainties force precautionary decision-making when setting ACLs which negatively impacts fishing activities directed at other species, in particular the Loligo squid fishery.

Conforming the National Environmental Policy Act and MSA: In spite of clear direction given by Congress in 2006 (Section 304(i), as added by P.L. 109-479), NMFS and the Council on Environmental Quality have yet to adequately streamline the procedures for review under the two statutes. The results are unconscionable delays in conserving and managing our fish stocks. For example, 2012 measures for Pacific groundfish are based on data from 2008 to inform a regulatory process that began in 2009 in order to comply with environmental review timelines. At its November 2011 meeting the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to maintain status quo on almost all ACLs through 2014 in spite of data showing markedly increased abundance on key stocks, simply because the environmental review time requirements would prevent the fishery from starting on time.

Stock Assessment Prioritization and Cooperative Research: The issues related to fishery science and stock assessment needs can be addressed using a transparent approach designed to provide a framework in which Commerce, NOAA/NMFS and the RFMCs can objectively prioritize research and assessment needs as well as cooperative research (CR) requirements on an annual basis for 5-year periods. These prioritized needs can inform budgetary allocations from Congress to NOAA and the Regional Science Centers.

I recommend that each NOAA/NMFS Regional Office, in conjunction with the Regional Science Centers, be required to complete a prioritization schedule of scientific research and stock assessment needs using a hierarchical score of pre-determined scientific and fishery attributes (i.e. economic value, stock status, survey needs, core/minor stock, level of uncertainty, protected species concerns, etc.) for each upcoming 5-year period. A similar process should be used for cooperative research recommendations recognizing that CR projects are Science Center directed and should be tailored to meet the unique needs of each region. Each RFMC, in conjunction with its SSC and consistent with requirements of MSA Section 302(h)(7), should review and adjust the recommendations of the NOAA/NMFS Regional Offices based on the Council’s data needs. NOAA/NMFS Headquarters staff could then finalize the recommendations and cost estimates for each region and forward on a timely basis to Congress and the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) for consideration in the budgetary allocation process.

Consideration of Shore Side Investment in Catch Share Programs: In certain high volume fisheries around the country (i.e. Atlantic mackerel & pelagic squids, Alaska and Pacific groundfish) there is a heavy reliance shore side processing capacity, investment and marketing capability. In these distinct situations catch share programs must be made inclusive to protect these elements of the infrastructure. The consolidation of fishing vessels under typical catch share program is not the only source of job loss for fishery-dependent communities. Consolidation can also occur in the processing sector. For example, there are seven groundfish processing facilities in the Gulf of Alaska (five in Kodiak, one in Sand Point, and one in King Cove). These seven facilities compete with each other for a market share in pollock, cod, rockfish, and flatfish. The companies also buy salmon, halibut, sablefish, crab, and herring from local fishermen.

The companies owning these facilities invested heavily to compete under an open access system to handle large volumes of pollock and cod. However, under a typical catch share system, consolidation in the fishing sector will likely be followed by consolidation in the processing sector. A program that does not factor in processing infrastructure may well result in shrinkage from seven facilities to two or three. This will adversely impact markets for all AK fishermen, including those engaged in salmon, halibut, sablefish, crab, and herring. Consolidation of processing capacity could hurt the local labor force in communities such as Kodiak where shore based processing workforce stands at roughly 1500 workers. Two-thirds of those jobs could be lost if a new catch share program triggers consolidation within the processing community.

Fisheries Management Responsibility in National Marine Sanctuaries: I continue to believe there are competing management jurisdictions between the National Marine Sanctuary Act (See NMSA 16 U.S.C. 1434) and the MSA (See MSA 16 U.S.C. 1852) when it comes to fishing regulations in sanctuaries. The specific problem appears in Section 304(a)(5) of NMSA (16 U.S.C. 1434) whereby the Councils are afforded the opportunity to prepare draft regulations using the MSA as guidance only “to the extent that the standards are consistent and compatible with the goals and objectives” of the Sanctuary designation. This is the crux of the jurisdictional and philosophical inconsistency.

RFMC Chairmen adopted a unanimous position in 2006 to amend both the NMSA and the MSA to exclude fishery resources as sanctuary resources and to achieve jurisdictional clarity by vesting federal fisheries management under the MSA. The House Natural Resources Committee attempted to address this issue during the 2006 reauthorization but Members deferred to the NMSA reauthorization. I agree with the position of the RFMCs and recommend the Committee consider including a jurisdictional clarification in the MSA. This approach will ensure that fishery resources are managed consistently throughout the range and subject to the National Standards.

Create Separate Definitions for the Terms “Overfished” and “Overfishing”: MSA Section 3 (See (34)) combines both terms into one definition. This is an inaccuracy that should be corrected. Simply stated, overfishing is an ongoing rate of removal from a fish stock that is too high and may lead to a stock becoming overfished. A stock that is determined to be overfished has already been exposed to a level of fishing mortality that jeopardizes the capacity to produce maximum sustainable yield and must be rebuilt.

Once clearly defined, a separate consideration could be developed for specific instances in which a robust, non-overfished stock is being subjected to too high an ongoing rate of removal. Rather than an immediate fishing closure, the fishing effort could be phased down over short period of time (i.e. 1-3 years) to reduce severe economic impacts but still provide adequate protection to the resource.

(4) Recommendations

Simply put — implementation of the 2006 MSA amendments exceeded our scientific capabilities with little improvement expected in the future, and the result being losses in fishery yields due to chronic application of ever-increasing uncertainty buffers. The NSG1 evolved to include precautionary decision-making leading to safety buffers that effectively prevent the U.S. fishing industry from achieving OY. Furthermore, for stocks that are not overfished or where overfishing is not occurring, or when stock assessments yield inconclusive results, we may never reach the OY benchmark.  These are the core weaknesses of U.S. fisheries policy yet achieving OY is a primary objective of MSA. My recommendation is for Congress to begin substantive reauthorization discussions now with a plan to offer a comprehensive reform package at the first appropriate opportunity. The eight pieces of legislation discussed today offer an excellent start with numerous elements that can be incorporated into such a package.

Mr. Chairman, thank you and the Ranking Member and the Members of this Committee for beginning this process in earnest. I look forward to working with you and your staff to secure positive changes to our Nation’s fisheries policy.


Angers, J. 2011. In Testimony to the House Natural Resources Fisheries Subcommittee Hearing on NOAA Science Costing Jobs, July 26, 2011.

FKCFA, 2011. Report titled “Florida’s Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) Issues for Consideration by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the 112th Congress”, 2 pages.


Murawski, Steve, 2009. In NOAA Testimony to the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Ocean and Wildlife Oversight Hearing on MSA Implementation, during Q&A Session, October 27, 2009.


NOAA 2009. Powerpoint slide from NOAA presentation to RFMCs on Draft National Catch Share Policy titled “Catch Share Programs by Region”, December 2009.


NOAA, 2010. National Catch Share Policy, 21 pages.


Overholtz, W.J., J.A. Hare & M.Keith. 2011. Impacts of Interannual Environmental Forcing and Climate Change on the Distribution of Atlantic Mackerel on the U.S. Northeast Continental Shelf, Marine and Coastal Fisheries, 3:1, 219-232.