Senate Votes to Reauthorize Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Bill

June 19, 2006

Kathleen Goldstein, Environmental Defense, 202-841-0295

(June 19, 2006 – Washington, DC) Under the leadership of Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI), the Senate unanimously voted today to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), which governs fishery management activities within the federal 200-mile limit. The bill maintains current protections and advances conservation incentives, including limited access privilege programs (LAPPs), key management tools that can make our fisheries more sustainable and profitable.
“Environmental Defense commends the Senate for working actively with fishermen and the conservation community to design a bill that improves fishery management,” said Environmental Defense Oceans Program Director David Festa. “This bill will help lead to economically viable fishing communities, better recreational opportunities and supplies of fresh seafood.”
LAPPs – catch shares - have proven to be environmentally and economically effective in Alaska, British Columbia and other regions around the world. Under this system, fishermen are allocated shares of the annual catch, which they can buy and sell with other fishermen.  Unlike government mandates limiting fishermen’s flexibility, catch shares allow fishermen to work year-round when market and weather conditions are most advantageous. Catch shares help fishermen cut costs, improve the quality of their fish, maximize dockside prices and prevent the waste of millions of fish each year that must be discarded. Just as shares of a company become more valuable if the company is well-managed, fishermen’s shares gain value when fish populations increase through a well managed fishery.  The fishermen now have a financial interest in conservation measures that protect the ocean.
Despite their advantages, catch shares are not magic bullets. They need to be implemented in the context of strong conservation goals and standards to ensure fairness and public input to the design process. The Senate has put together a catch shares package that fishermen and conservationists alike can support.
“The recent U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy recommended catch shares as a key management tool. And, in September, the Administration explicitly called for doubling the existing number of these programs,” said Environmental Defense Oceans Policy Specialist Amanda Leland. “With the Senate passing this bill by unanimous consent, clearly there is broad political support for these programs.”
The bill also:
·        Maintains current protections that help curb overfishing and restore fish stocks;
·        Integrates the National Environmental Policy Act with Magnuson-Stevens in a manner that maintains public participation and allows consideration of alternative proposals; 
·        Establishes fishery catch limits – a maximum number of fish allowed to be caught within a certain timeframe, with a system of accountability, a key tool in maintaining and restoring healthy fish populations;
·        Improves recreational fisheries data to better inform decision-making; and
·        Creates a fund for improving investment in fisheries conservation and management.
“Now that the Senate has unanimously passed a good bill, it’s time for leaders in the House to grab the helm and work together as the Senate did to navigate us to an improved and broadly-supported House bill — one that maintains current protections and provides conservation and economic tools that offer incentives to protect our fisheries,” said Leland.