Federal fisheries legislation in the spotlight

House Committee on Natural Resources holds hearing on eight fisheries bills

WASHINGTON, DC – Robert G. Hayes, one of the most respected voices on state, federal and international fisheries management issues, is among those invited by U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, to appear before a hearing of his committee on Dec. 1 and offer testimony on a number of bills that stand to impact federal fisheries management. Hayes will be testifying as the recreational fishing representative on the panel. Other participants include: Rick Marks, Hoffman Silver Gilman & Blasco; Capt. Robert Zales, National Association of Charterboat Operators; Chris Oliver, North Pacific Fishery Management Council; Mike Colby, Double Hook Charter Boat; Peter Shelley, Conservation Law Foundation, and Eric Schwaab, assistant administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

“The House Committee on Natural Resources is gathering information on a variety of bills proposing to address some of the well-known problems in federal fisheries management that have appeared since the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “It is an important opportunity to discuss a number of bills that have been introduced in the House and referred to this Committee.”

The Committee is focusing on the Coastal Jobs Creation Act of 2011 (H.R. 594); Strengthen Fisheries Management in New England Act of 2011 (H.R. 1013); American Angler Preservation Act (H.R. 1646); Fishery Science Improvement Act of 2011 (H.R. 2304); Asset Forfeiture Fund Reform and Distribution Act of 2011 (H.R. 2610); Fishery Management Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 2753); Saving Fishing Jobs Act of 2011 (H.R. 2772); Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2011 (H.R. 3061).

In his testimony, Hayes will focus on the Fisheries Science Improvement Act (H.R. 2304/S. 1916) and highlight three overarching issues of concern with regard to federal fisheries management: 1) the importance of marine recreational fishing; 2) the negative consequences of adopting quotas by sector for every stock of fish under management without standardized assessments to support those decisions, and 3) the urgency of acting now.

“The one-size-fits-all amendments adopted in the 2006 reauthorization of Magnuson undermine the discretion of Councils, which must manage to the species, fishermen and management systems available to them,” Hayes says. “What happened in 2006 was an over-reaching of control that has deprived many of the Councils of the discretion they need to tailor measures appropriate to the science and the management capability they have, not what they would like to have.”

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) introduced the Fishery Science Improvement Act in June with 34 bipartisan co-authors, while Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced a Senate version of the bill on Nov 28 with original co-sponsors, including Oceans Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska); Congressional Sportsmen’s 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.).

For a copy of Hayes’ complete written testimony, click here.

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