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U.S. Commerce Committee Approves the
 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 2005


December 16, 2005
Friday AM

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The Magnuson ­Stevens Act (MSA), originally enacted in 1976, was most recently amended through the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA) in 1996, and establishes a national framework for conserving and managing marine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 Councils.
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 management process.
  • 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 Harvest

  • 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 scientific information.
  • 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 Programs
  • 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 management decisions.
    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 data.
  • 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 limits.
  • 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 and Management

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 Treaties
  • 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. 



Source of News:

U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation


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