The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is the overarching law that manages America’s marine fisheries. It was first passed in 1976, was reauthorized in 1996 and again most recently in 2006.
Throughout its 30-plus-year history MSA has been dogged by a persistent problem that affected both recreational and commercial fisheries – its inability to end overfishing. Federal fisheries were allowed to limp along from one year to the next, under management plans that had only very small chances of actually recovering overfished populations.
As a result, when MSA was reauthorized in 2006 it put in place the strictest legal mandates ever seen in fisheries management in an effort to finally put an end to the intractable problem of overfishing. Among the unprecedented requirements was the cessation of all overfishing in U.S. waters by 2011 and the rebuilding of overfished species within a time certain. For the first time ever, ending overfishing had a firm deadline. In the quest for the robust, sustainable resources sought by recreational anglers, the new provisions of MSA seemed like the recipe, at last, for proper conservation of our marine resources.
Though the new MSA mandates may be the recipe for good conservation, in combination with an agency that has utterly failed to properly manage our marine resources they are causing real short-term hardship. Users of the resource are rightfully irate at the prospect of closures for popular species, but have misdirected their ire at the new provisions of MSA, rather than at the agency which has failed to competently discharge its duties under the law.
Almost from the day MSA was reauthorized in 2006, a bill to unravel some of its most conservation-oriented provisions has been promoted. Called the Flexibility in Rebuilding America’s Fisheries Act, the bill has been touted as a way to fix what some view as overly restrictive provisions in MSA.
However, a careful analysis of current and past federal management of marine resources reflects that the problems in federal fisheries management go well beyond the proposals contained in the Flexibility Act. Indeed, a veritable train wreck is upon NOAA Fisheries as a result of its dearth of data and lack of effort to manage recreational fisheries. A train wreck that will crash into the recreational angling community in full force in the coming months unless a reasonable, workable solution is implemented to address the roots of the problems in federal fisheries management.
CCA Federal Lobbyist
Before joining CCA, Paxton was senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. He spent more than five years in the U.S. Senate working on legislative and policy issues focused primarily on natural resources, environment and fisheries matters. As senior counsel on the Commerce Committee, he worked on the development and drafting of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006. He also oversaw several subcommittees that dealt with fisheries issues and policy, and worked almost exclusively on the Magnuson-Stevens Act for the chairman of the committee at that time, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK).
Before joining the Commerce Committee, Paxton was the Legislative Director for Sen. Stevens where he worked on numerous legislative and policy issues involving fisheries in the North Pacific. He earned his degree in Political Science from the University of Washington and his Juris Doctor from Willamette University College of Law. He is a member of the Washington State Bar Association.