Saturday, October 31, 2009

RFA testifies at congressional hearing on Magnuson

RFA testifies at congressional hearing on Magnuson
Wed, Oct 28, 2009

On October 27, the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife held an oversight hearing on implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 2006 (MSA). Testifying on behalf the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), Herb Moore, Jr. charged the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) with managing the recreational fishing sector using poor statistical data and by attempting to meet arbitrary rebuilding timelines without adequately fulfilling their own commitments.

"Unfortunately, many in the recreational fishing public have come to view our federal government as the enemy - having experienced decades of larger and larger minimum size limits, shorter seasons and smaller bag limits in fisheries that we know are healthy," Moore said, adding "We believe NMFS needs a complete overhaul in how it views recreational fishing and we believe this Congress can help."

Congress mandated extensive improvements to recreational data collection programs in the 2006 MSA reauthorization. "Unfortunately, NMFS has not met its mandates," Moore said. "The problems with MRFSS have been well-documented for years and it took an act of Congress to get NMFS to move on this, but the process has been slow."

South Carolina charter and party boat Captain Mark Brown said "NMFS continues to move forward like a run-away train," and testified that MSA requirements were leading to the draconian management measures on the red snapper fishery. "These measures are due to the mandates of the rigid and inflexible timeframes set forth within the MSA and are being forced upon the fishermen without sound statistics and without a clear understanding of why fisheries managers are forced to accept scientific information that makes absolutely no sense," Brown said, while vocalizing his support for the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act.

Sponsored in the House by Rep. Frank Pallone (HR 1584) and in the Senate by Sen. Charles Schumer (S 1255), this "flexibility" legislation would extend the time period for rebuilding certain overfished fisheries provided that certain conditions are met. Pallone noted that because the best available science is generally uncertain, it creates total allowable landing figures that unduly restrict the fishermen, which contributes to his concerns about the rebuilding targets. "Other factors should be included in determining rebuilding targets besides fishing, for instance are environmental factors such as the development and degradation of estuaries," Pallone said, adding that the best way to address these issues in his opinion is through HR 1584 and S 1255.

"Magnuson is clearly a broken instrument of the law that needs to be fixed to allow for more access, conservation, and rebuilding," said Capt. Brown in his testimony.
For an archived audio version, visit