U.S. Commerce Committee Approves
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act
December 16, 2005
Washington, D.C. - The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Committee today approved the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation
and Management Reauthorization Act of 2005 by voice vote.
The Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA), originally enacted in 1976,
was most recently amended through the Sustainable Fisheries Act
(SFA) in 1996, and establishes a national framework for conserving
and managing marine fisheries within a 200-mile wide zone contiguous
to the United States through eight Regional Fishery Management
The bill retains key provisions of the SFA, while making adjustments
to the legislation designed to improve national compliance with
the Act. The bill, which reauthorizes the MSA from Fiscal Year
2006 through Fiscal Year 2012, also contains provisions that
would help improve international fishery management and conservation
compliance, with an emphasis on strengthening controls on illegal,
unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and ensuring other
nations provide comparable protections to populations of living
marine resources at risk from high seas fishing activities.
The bill was introduced by
Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel
Inouye (D-Hawaii), with Senators Trent Lott (R-Miss.), John Kerry
(D-Mass.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.),
Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.)
Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), David Vitter ( R-La.), Frank Lautenberg
(D-N.J.), and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) joining as cosponsors.
During consideration of the
bill, a substitute was adopted without objection. The substitute
strengthens the originally introduced bill and incorporates the
comments and suggestions of a broad range of sources, including the
Administration, states, the Ocean Commissions, industry,
environmental organizations, and Committee Members.
The changes included in the
substitute are reflected in the following list of highlights
of the underlying bill as reported by the U.S. Senate Committee
on Commerce, Science and Transportation:
Preserves and Strengthens
the Regional Fishery Management Councils
- Establishes a Council training
program open to both new and existing Council members designed
to prepare members for complying with legal, scientific, economic,
and conflict of interest requirements applicable to the fishery
- Strengthens and clarifies
the MSA's conflict of interest and recusal requirements.
- Ensures that Council members
disclose any financial arrangements with any other individuals
who may have a financial interest in activity over which the
Council has jurisdiction, as well as disclose any other sources
of compensation the Council member may receive.
Mandates the Use of Allowable
Catch Levels to Prevent Overfishing and Preserve Sustainable
- Mandates that every fishery
management plan contain an annual catch limit set at or below
the optimum yield of the fishery, based on the best available
- Directs the Councils to consult
with the Scientific and Statistical Committees (SSCs), or other
appropriate scientific body, in setting catch limits.
- Requires that harvests in
excess of the annual catch limit be deducted from the limit for
the following year.
Establishes National Guidelines for Limited Access Privilege
- Establishes national guidelines
for Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPPs) for the harvesting
of fish. The LAPPs include Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs),
and are expanded to allow for allocation of harvesting privileges
to fishing communities or regional fishery associations.
- Only fisheries that have been
operating under a limited access program for at least a year
would be eligible for consideration for a LAPP. All LAPPs would
be developed by the Councils and be subject to review by the
Secretary of Commerce (Secretary).
- Does not provide for the establishment
of a separate Processor Quota, but processors would be eligible
to hold LAPPs to harvest fish, pursuant to current law, and any
decision to allocate privileges to processors would be made in
the Council's normal allocation decision making process.
- Provides for a five-year administrative
review of each program's compliance with the goals of the program
and the MSA.
Improves the Uniformity
of Decision Making for Fishery Management Plans and Aligns them
with the NEPA Process
- Authorizes the establishment
of a Coordinating Committee comprised of Council Chairs, Vice
Chairs, and Executive Directors as a forum to discuss issues
relevant to all Councils.
- Directs the Secretary, with
public participation and in consultation with the Council on
Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Regional Fishery Management
Council, to develop one, uniform fishery management-specific
environmental review process that conforms National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA) review, analysis, and public input schedules
to the timelines appropriate for fishery management decisions
under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The intent is to establish one
consistent, timely, and predictable regulatory process for fishery
Improves Data Collection for Better Management
- Authorizes a national cooperative
research and management program, which would be implemented on
a regional basis to be developed and conducted through partnerships
between federal and state managers, commercial and recreational
fishing industry participants, and scientists.
- Priority support would be
given for efforts to improve stock assessments, assess bycatch,
identify or conserve habitat areas, and collect socioeconomic
- Provides a mechanism for improving
data relating to recreational fisheries by establishing a new
national program for the registration of marine recreational
fishermen who fish in federal waters or for anadromous species.
- Establishes a program dedicated
to the development of technologies and methods to improve the
ability of fishery participants to reduce bycatch and associated
mortality. Directs the Secretary, in cooperation with the Councils
and other interests, to create a regionally based Bycatch Reduction
Engineering Program to develop technological devices and engineering
techniques for minimizing bycatch, bycatch mortality, and post-release
mortality. The provision includes an outreach mandate to encourage
the adoption of new technologies, and also encourages the adoption
of bycatch reduction incentives in fishery management plans,
such as bycatch quotas.
Increases the Role of Science in Decision Making
The bill strengthens the role of science in Council decision
making through a number of provisions.
- Specifies that the role of
the Scientific and Statistical Committees (SSCs) is to provide
their Councils with ongoing scientific advice needed for management
decisions, which may include recommendations on acceptable biological
catch or optimum yield, annual catch limits, or other mortality
- The SSCs are expected to advise
the Councils on a variety of other issues, including stock status
and health, bycatch, habitat status, and socio-economic impacts.
- Requires that SSC appointees
be federal, state, academic, or independent experts with strong
scientific or technical credentials and experience and authorizes
stipends for non-government SSC members.
Strengthens U.S. Leadership in International Conservation
IUU fishing, as well as expanding
fleets and high bycatch levels, are threats to sustainable fisheries
worldwide. The bill includes provisions to strengthen the ability
of international fishery management organizations and the United
States to ensure appropriate enforcement and compliance with
conservation and management measures in high seas fisheries.
- Requires the Secretary of
Commerce to establish an international compliance and monitoring
program, provide reports to Congress on progress in reducing
IUU fishing, promoting international cooperation, and strengthening
the ability of regional fishery management organizations to combat
IUU and other harmful fishing practices.
- Requires the Secretary of
Commerce to define IUU, but specifies that the definition must
include violations of quotas or other rules established under
a regional or international agreement, as well as overfishing
or use of certain damaging gear in high seas areas with no international
or regional conservation and management measures.
- Allows for the use of measures
authorized under the High Seas Driftnet Act to force compliance
in cases where regional or international fishery management organizations
are unable to stop IUU fishing or excessive bycatch.
Reauthorizes and Strengthens Two International Fishery
- Contains implementing legislation
for (1) the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention,
a treaty to establish the first regional management regime for
highly migratory species in the Central and Western Pacific,
and (2) the Pacific Whiting Treaty, to establish an international
and scientific and management regime for Pacific whiting, which
are before the Senate for advice and consent.
The bill authorizes $328 million annually for implementation
of activities under the MSA. To address the growing need for
additional funding for fisheries technology, science, and related
information, the bill includes a new provision that would establish
a new Fisheries Conservation and Management Fund. This Fund is
intended to respond to the call by the U.S. Commission on Ocean
Policy for dedicated funding for ocean-related needs, but establishes
a fishery management-specific fund, patterned on the Wallop-Breaux
Trust Fund "user pays, user benefits" model.
Allocations from the fund would be determined in consultation
with the Councils, and would be for specific activities not funded
under current law, including technology upgrades, cooperative
research, gear buybacks and development, and sustainable seafood
marketing and handling activities. Funds to be deposited
in the fund would include: funds from certain penalties and seizures;
any quota set-asides designated by a Council; general revenues;
or donated funds.
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