The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing to address four federal fisheries management bills. Two would reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA; PL 109-479) – the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act (H.R. 200) and the Strengthening Fishing Communities through Improving Science, Increasing Flexibility, and Modernizing Fisheries Management Act (a discussion draft that has not been introduced).
The Senate Science, Commerce, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a third hearing on the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act reauthorization on Tuesday titled “Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: Oversight of Fisheries Management Successes and Challenges.”
Big business, lobbyists say it’s too costly to make sure the fish they sell is what the labels say it is. A new federal plan to combat seafood fraud by requiring the fishing industry to trace their catches from boat or farm to the U.S. border has survived a court challenge. The Seafood Traceability Rule surfaced during President Barack Obama’s final days in office and is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. For the first time, it requires seafood importers of species like tuna, grouper, swordfish, red snapper and blue crab to track fish entering the U.S. by species and origin.
Sooner or later, Congress will have to start wading through dozens of fights that go along with re-approving the key law that governs federally managed fisheries. Sen. Dan Sullivan is pushing for sooner, pressing the Commerce Committee to start advancing a revisit of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, historically brushed up in Washington every decade or so, but not since 2007. As part of Sullivan’s effort to advance MSA to re-authorization, the Republican senator on Wednesday convened a meeting in Soldotna for a subcommittee that deals with fishery policy to hear testimony from a variety of industry leaders. State and federal government leaders were among the 14 panelists, and so were commercial and sport fish business owners.
The Trump administration on Tuesday chose not to list the Pacific bluefin tuna as an endangered species, rejecting a petition by the largest global conservation group that the U.S. is a member of, with France, South Korea, Australia, and several other countries. The Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service announced the decision after a 12-month review of the request that started under the Obama administration.
Nothing in COL’s legislative tracker was signed into law this month, but several items did pass out of committee, the House, or the Senate. Notably, the Save Our Seas Act of 2017 (S.756) passed the Senate with unanimous consent last week. The legislation (and its counterpart in the House (H.R. 2748)) reauthorizes and amends the Marine Debris Act (P.L. 109-332) “to promote international action to reduce marine debris.”
Prior to the Chesapeake Bay Program, the largest bay in the country was so polluted and disease-ridden that oysters, seagrass beds, and blue crabs declined in alarming numbers, threatening the economy of the region and wreaking havoc on ecosystems. Since the creation of the program in 1983, the conditions in the bay have been slowly, but surely, improving. The HELP for Wildlife Act (S. 1514), which passed out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public by a vote of 14-7, is a comprehensive (though controversial) recreational hunting and conservation bill that reauthorizes the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Only 31 years ago, fleets from foreign countries could fish as close as 12 nautical miles to the United States shoreline. Fish populations were severely depleted, impacting livelihoods for fishers and threatening biodiversity. As a result, Congress passed the bipartisan Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). This law extends U.S. jurisdiction to 200 nautical miles, uses science-based management to rebuild stocks and prevent overfishing, and ensures an economically sustainable yield via quotas and annual catch limits. The 1976 law created eight regional fishery management councils and has been updated twice, once in 1996 and again in 2007. Thanks to these efforts, U.S. fish populations are rebuilding, and now, 90 percent of fisheries fall below their annual catch limits. Last week, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing to discuss areas for improvement to consider upon reauthorization. Both sides of the aisle praised the successes of the law and conceded need for change but had different ideas for what those alterations might be.
In July 2015, the United Nations General Assembly began the long process of developing an international, legally-binding treaty under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (UNGA Resolution 69/292).
Imagine our country being on the verge of a second Industrial Revolution – an economic boom so powerful that it alters the United States economy – and the world’s – forever. This is the picture Dr. Doug McCauley (Assistant Professor, Marine Science Institute, University of California Santa Barbara) painted at the beginning of a congressional briefing, hosted by COMPASS, entitled “Counting on Ocean Benefits: A science briefing on the links between the ocean, our economy, and human well-being.”