Posts Tagged ‘Magnuson-Stevens Act’
As hard as it might be to believe, management of the Gulf red snapper fishery reached a new level of frustration this week. At its meeting in Mobile, the Gulf Council announced that the overall quota of red snapper harvest will be increased, but the 2012 season will likely be the shortest ever, perhaps no more than 40 days.
Well, the fishery is rebounding beyond all hopes and expectations. It’s a smashing success story by almost any definition…. except the one used by NOAA Fisheries. There are more red snapper out there than anyone can explain, and the fish are much bigger than anyone thought they would be at this point in the rebuilding plan. Anglers are catching big, fat red snapper so fast we are reaching our quota even before the meager allotment of days set for our season elapses. The only answer NOAA Fisheries has to offer is to keep cutting days off our season so that anglers stay within their limits.
You would think that someone would stop to question if this is what they ought to be doing and, admirably, some Gulf Council members are doing just that. It is more than past time to ponder the lunacy of closing a highly prized fishery for at least 325 days – one that appears to have more fish in it than at any time in recent memory. Especially since Council staffers are looking for “something radical” to exert even more control in the future – something like tags or one-fish bag limits, according to Roy Crabtree, NOAA regional administrator. And, that is not what we need.
Rather than searching for the next level of control, there are better questions to ask here: Is this really how we want to manage our fisheries? What does success look like? What exactly is the goal here?
Somewhere along the way, the idea of managing the oceans like ordered aquariums came into the equation. Federal law currently compels managers to act in ways that seem designed to drive recreational anglers right off the water, and managers seems defiantly content to do so. That kind of rote pursuit of a goal, regardless of the consequences, is what is driving anglers into the streets to protest.
There is nothing wrong with stepping back and asking if this is the right path – if this is what anyone could possibly have had in mind when Magnuson-Stevens was reauthorized in 2006. That is not what’s happening. To the contrary, managers are thinking up even more ways to gain greater and greater control to count every fish and cap every fishery, without ever stopping to wonder if it is feasible or even if it is the right thing to do.
As evidenced by yet another unbelievable Gulf Council meeting, federal fisheries management doesn’t need a Band-Aid or even “radical” surgery.
It needs a completely new vision.
Tags: gulf council, Magnuson-Stevens Act, red snapper
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By Ted Venker
Coastal Conservation Association
The illusion continues for NOAA Fisheries.
Last year the agency boldly announced it had ended overfishing. This week, the agency proudly announced that annual catch limits are now in place for most federal fisheries. Wonderful news, if either proclamation had roots in fact or could possibly translate into any good result.
Unable to muster the science to manage to the very high threshold specified by the Magnuson Stevens Act, NOAA Fisheries declared victory without even running the race. It ended overfishing and put a catch limit on every stock under management. On paper. And environmentalists cheered.
Recreational anglers are not cheering.
What will happen back in the real world now that the agency has claimed to have ended overfishing and put in annual catch limits without the science to adequately back it up? The rest of us will eventually have to pay the piper. The agency has built a house of cards and set catch limits that are not tethered to reality. When those limits are exceeded — and we are talking about limits on every single stock under management, the majority of which the agency knows nothing about — the agency will be sued. Sued relentlessly by environmental groups. With no tools to offer any other alternative, NOAA Fisheries will close stock after stock to comply with illusory catch limits. It is relatively easy to end overfishing and enforce catch limits if you simply don’t let anyone fish. And after every closure the environmentalists will cheer and commend the agency for its proactive stance. Won’t that make a good press release?
Real management is difficult and expensive, but infinitely more beneficial for the nation’s fisheries and the citizens who use and enjoy them. But functional management doesn’t seem to be the goal here. NOAA Fisheries has chosen the easier, but far more unpredictable path. By implementing everything from unfair catch shares to imaginary catch limits to archaic allocations, the agency has almost completely alienated its most valuable constituents — the anglers who actually use the nation’s marine resources and put back far more than they take out. Trust and partnership between the agency and the recreational community are at an all-time low. This community is counting the days until the Magnuson-Stevens Act comes up for reauthorization again. At this point it is hard not to believe the agency will eventually reap what it has sown, and that may not be a welcome outcome for the proper conservation of our marine resources.
The current and likely future situation is all the more regrettable when you consider that the Administration could have implemented the most turbulent provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act in about 100 different ways — 99 of which would not have left scorched earth in their wake. As concerns mount over the strangling effects of over-regulation on the American economy, it is remarkable that the agency has elected to subject America’s anglers and all their economic potential to the singularly most restrictive interpretation of the law possible, never mind the consequences.
This Administration’s attitude towards fisheries management is strikingly similar to the one that gave the public Prohibition in the 1920s, and the results are likely to be the same. Prohibition, which made criminals out of ordinary citizens overnight, didn’t work because nobody wanted it to work except a small, hardcore group of extremists who didn’t drink alcohol. The country turned itself inside out, spent billions of dollars on a misguided campaign and took more than 10 years to correct its course. The current approach to federal fisheries management is on the same path.
Whether by choice or by circumstance, the agency has frittered away the good will of even the most reasonable of its constituents and has elected to hide behind an illusion of management. This is certainly not the agency the recreational community deserves or expects, nor is it one which contains the essentials of good management.
Tags: Annual catch limits, Magnuson-Stevens Act, NOAA Fisheries
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By Jeff Angers
Center for Coastal Conservation
From The Saltwater Sentinel – the Newsletter of the Center for Coastal Conservation
It is easy to see why federal fisheries management is in the shape it is in.
On one side of the debate is a completely obstinate environmental community that refuses to budge even an inch to address a train wreck in federal fisheries brought on by some provisions of the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Act. On the other extreme is a recreational group involved in a coalition of charter and commercial fishing entities that takes a wildly different view from the environmental community.
In between and catching flak from both sides is a coalition of responsible fishing and boating groups working to find a way to address problems in federal fisheries management that doesn’t leave anglers at the dock, while remaining committed to conservation of our marine resources.
Last week, the environmental community sent letters to Congress opposing H.R.2304/S.1916 — the Fishery Science Improvement Act. One of the letters was signed by 129 scientists opposing the bills, although it is not clear if all of those scientists were sure what they were signing. Conversations with some of those scientists after the letter was released confirm that the bills were misrepresented.
This week, the Recreational Fishing Alliance launched yet another attack on everyone who does not support their “Flexibility” bill. Variations of the Flexibility Bill have been introduced in the last three Congresses to fix a 1996 requirement to rebuild overfished fisheries in a time certain. Environmentalists condemned that bill as fundamentally unraveling just about every conservation tenet of the 1996 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The 1996 reauthorization of MSA is responsible for many of the conservation provisions that have successfully rebuilt a number of our fisheries. However, that doesn’t discourage RFA from searching for scapegoats in our community for their bill’s repeated failure and engaging in an Internet campaign of scorched earth against its enemies, real and imagined.
Meanwhile, the environmental community refuses to do anything to disprove the impression that its ultimate goal in the 2006 reauthorization was to close the oceans and remove anglers from the water. To the contrary, it uses its vast resources to lobby against any effort to adjust the Magnuson-Stevens Act to fit the current capabilities of NOAA Fisheries. That intractable attitude is one of the factors that drives responsible members of the fishing and boating community up the wall.
It is said that when you start taking flak you know you are over the target. With attacks on the Fishery Science Improvement Act from the extreme ends of the political spectrum, it is clear that the Congressional Sportsman’s Foundation, American Sportfishing Association, The Billfish Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association, International Game Fish Association and National Marine Manufacturers Association and the Center for Coastal Conservation, must be over the target.
As this session of the 112th Congress comes to a close, it looks as though passage of FSIA may be a bridge too far. But when the Congress reconvenes next month, we have another opportunity. I expect our champion Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) to secure a mark up on the House version of the bill. I believe Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will do likewise in the Senate. And we will solve this problem facing America’s fishermen.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act comes up for reauthorization in a few years, and it is difficult to imagine how radioactive the environment may be by then. By refusing to engage in any meaningful manner, the environmental community has given fertile ground to an increasingly extreme opposition. At a time when groups should be working together to address problems in federal fisheries management, the issue is more polarized than ever and the future is uncertain, if not downright bleak.
Tags: federal fisheries, FSIA, Magnuson-Stevens Act
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Nelson/Rubio Bill racing the clock to fix management problems in federal saltwater fisheries
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nov. 29, 2011– With a December 31 deadline looming, support is surging for legislation to ensure that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service uses sound science to set catch limits for the nation’s fisheries as a Senate version of the Fishery Science Improvement Act was introduced late yesterday by Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
As amended in 2006, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) requires Regional Fishery Management Councils to put in place annual catch limits (ACLs) for every fishery by December 31, 2011. The requirements were intended to end overfishing by 2011 but were predicated on two critical assumptions: catch limit decisions would be based on up-to-date and accurate stock assessments; and there would be improved catch data to better anticipate potential problems in a given fishery. Neither of these obligations has been met.
“Fishery management decisions should be based on sound science,” Sen. Nelson said. “This legislation will ensure that science is a priority.”
“It’s a simple formula,” said Sen. Rubio. “Regulatory decisions, if necessary, should always be based on sound science. This legislation provides a simple answer to fishermen and to fishery managers.”
Bi-partisan original co-sponsors of the Nelson/Rubio Bill (S.1916) include 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.).
Similar to legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and 34 bi-partisan co-authors, the Nelson/Rubio Bill has the backing of a broad coalition of fishing, boating and industry groups that see a critical need for federal managers to avoid an unacceptable situation in which arbitrary deadlines are being allowed to trump the essential need for science-based management of our marine resources.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus – the largest bi-partisan, bi-cameral caucus in the U.S. Congress with nearly 300 Members representing all 50 states – has lent its powerful voice to calls for this legislation that will safeguard the strong conservation standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Act while addressing the shortcomings within NOAA Fisheries. The bill has the support of American Sportfishing Association (ASA), Center for Coastal Conservation (Center), Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), International Game Fish Association (IGFA), National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and The Billfish Foundation (TBF).
To maintain MSA’s conservation tenets, the Nelson/Rubio Bill would not apply to stocks that have already been determined to be overfished. However, it offers key components that are intended to steer NOAA Fisheries back to the true intention of the 2006 MSA reauthorization. The bill states that if NOAA Fisheries has not done a stock assessment on a particular stock in the last six years, and there is no indication that overfishing is occurring, an annual catch limit on that stock is not required.
“The legislation is critical to sportsmen from coast to coast to coast,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “NOAA Fisheries needs this discrete legislative fix to ensure that recreational and commercial fishermen are not left at the dock because of the agency’s lack of science.”
The federal government currently has approximately 528 fish stocks or complexes of stocks under management, and today only 121 of those stocks are considered “adequately assessed.” If the agency does not have the data to even hazard a guess about an ACL for some species, there is currently an option for the agency to simply remove those stocks from all management protections, which is not a desirable result. The Nelson/Rubio Bill provides a timely path for NOAA Fisheries to manage all of America’s marine fish stocks based on sound science.
“Conservation of our marine resources is important to anglers, so much so that we demand a level of confidence and trust in the federal fisheries management system,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “The Nelson/Rubio Bill strengthens the ties between science and the rational management of our resources. The ultimate goal of this bill is to achieve sound management practices that make economic sense for the country, conservation sense for the resource and common sense for anglers.”
For a Fact Sheet on the Nelson/Rubio Bill (S.1916), click here.
Tags: federal fisheries, Magnuson-Stevens Act, MSA
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Pew misinformation campaign reaches new low
by Jeff Angers
Center for Coastal Conservation
In what has become a veritable campaign of misinformation, Pew Environment Group issued yet another statement in support of setting annual catch limits on marine fisheries species without the benefit of science-based assessments. Taking the campaign to a new level, Pew is now revising history to make its points:
“Holly Binns, director of the Pew Environment Group’s Southeast Fish Conservation Campaign, issued the following statement [Aug. 8] in response to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s 8 to 5 vote to approve plans to prevent overfishing that protect dozens of species by setting science-based catch limits.
“‘The council has taken a forward-looking approach that allows managers to set scientifically sound fishing limits now before species suffer population declines. This proactive strategy is necessary to avoid what happened with South Atlantic red snapper, which is in such severe trouble that a fishing moratorium was needed in 2010 to save the species.’
“‘This plan will help avert steeper restrictions in the future, setting a course towards restoring a healthy, balanced ocean ecosystem. It is like visiting the doctor for preventive care, rather than waiting until you end up in the emergency room.’”
There are so many misstatements of fact in that statement, it is hard to know where to begin. For starters, there is nothing “scientifically sound” about setting catch limits without the benefit of a stock assessment. Those catch limits are going to be set by SWAG — scientific wild-ass guess – which doesn’t necessarily bother an environmentalist but does strike a nerve with anglers and others who actually use America’s public resources.
Second, the South Atlantic red snapper crisis came about precisely because NOAA Fisheries neglected to do a stock assessment for decades — the exact course of action Pew is advocating now for all marine fisheries. In a sense, the Council managed that fishery by SWAG and got it horribly wrong, so wrong that when they finally did do an assessment, they almost had to close the bottom of the entire South Atlantic to fix it. And ironically, if I recall correctly, Pew was very much in favor of that closure.
Third, as exemplified by South Atlantic red snapper, nothing about setting limits based on SWAGs is going to prevent managers from having to enact steeper restrictions in the future when and if an assessment finally shows them how radically wrong those limits are. And, in the most gaping fault with Pew’s logic, once the catch limits are set without an assessment, there is no motivation for managers to spend the money and resources to actually examine the state of the stock with an assessment. Red snapper became a crisis after the stock assessment. If they had never done an assessment — and NOAA Fisheries has shown a systemic reluctance to expend resources on assessments in recreational fisheries — red snapper would still be heading merrily down the drain, and no one would be the wiser.
Pew likes to say that managing this way is “preventative” medicine, and it’s better than ending up in the emergency room. In reality, they are advocating exactly the opposite. They are advocating that you never visit the doctor, never run any tests, never draw blood or have an x-ray. And by time you realize there is a problem, you go straight to the morgue.
That is no way to manage a fishery.
There are rational ways to manage wildlife resources that are employed all over this country. Anglers are seeking the same for marine species, no more, no less. But we are not going to get there by revising history and distorting reality.
Tags: Annual catch limits, Magnuson-Stevens Act, South Atlantic red snapper
Posted in CCA Blogs, Magnuson-Stevens Act | 2 Comments »
Testimony before House committee hearing explains how lack of science impacts recreational fishing and the economy
WASHINGTON, DC – With the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continuing to struggle in the management of the nation’s fisheries, lawmakers today held a committee hearing intended to explore the impact of a looming deadline that will force the agency to set annual catch limits on stocks of fish for which it has no science. Today’s hearing, “NOAA’s Fishery Science: Is the Lack of Basic Science Costing Jobs? looked at how NOAA’s fishery research affects jobs and the coastal economy.
As amended in 2006, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) requires federal fishery management councils to put in place annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) for every fishery by December 31, 2011. The requirements were intended to end overfishing by 2011 but were predicated on two critical assumptions: NOAA Fisheries would make decisions based on up-to-date and accurate stock assessments; and the agency would improve catch data to better anticipate potential problems in a given fishery. Neither of these obligations has been met.
Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, was invited to testify before the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs on behalf of American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association and The Billfish Foundation.
“How has the agency managed this great American business – marine recreational fishing – that generates $92.2 billion in total sales? That employs 533,813 people? That contributes $621.5 million in license purchases? How is NOAA Fisheries managing us?” asked Angers. “In a word: Poorly. All the vast, positive effects of recreational fishing on the American economy are based on three things: good management of marine fisheries, a sustainable resource and access to that resource. The agency’s lack of science is impacting all three.”
In his testimony, Angers laid out the case for HR 2304, the Fishery Science Improvement Act, sponsored by Rob Wittman (R-Va.) that seeks to avoid a situation in which the agency is compelled by statutory deadlines to make major fishery management decisions using inadequate data and incomplete analysis. In one of its core provisions, HR 2304 states that if the agency has not assessed a stock of fish in the last five years and there is no indication that overfishing is occurring, there is no requirement to set an ACL.
“NOAA Fisheries is simply making guesses in many cases when setting catch limits and in determining other management parameters, and guesswork should have no place in federal fisheries management,” said Angers. “No other wildlife resource management agency would think of operating without standardized stock surveys and assessments. Yet, for our marine resources, a hodgepodge of partial bits of information that perhaps add up to an informed guess is somehow good enough. We don’t accept that. That will always fall short of the standards we as a nation have used for managing our fish and wildlife resources.”
HR 2304 is supported by the 300-member-strong Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, as well as groups representing sportfishers and the marine industry. More than two dozen other lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have signed on as co-sponsors.
“Without Congressional action, arbitrary decisions affecting millions of anglers and thousands of businesses will continue to be made, and we can’t let that happen to anglers on the coast of Virginia or Louisiana or California or Alaska,” said Angers. “Today’s hearing is a wakeup call beyond this Subcommittee. The millions of Americans who responsibly utilize the nation’s public fishery resources and depend on them for jobs and recreation know this Congress can and will solve this problem.”
Click HERE for Angers’ full written testimony.
Tags: ACL, Annual catch limits, HR 2304, Magnuson-Stevens Act
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Improved Science Is Better Than No Science
by Jeff Angers
Center for Coastal Conservation
Many groups in the environmental community have come out in opposition to the Fishery Science Improvement Act (H.R. 2304). While some of those groups have reacted in typical knee-jerk fashion, labeling supporters of the bill as favoring “extinction,” the more thoughtful among them have circulated concerns that are no less illogical, but perhaps more diplomatically phrased.
The most recent effort to distort FSIA, dramatically titled “HR 2304: A Bill That Would Weaken Fisheries Science and Jeopardize Efforts to Prevent Overfishing,” exhorts Congress to reject H.R. 2304 by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) because “it would undermine the progress we’ve made preventing overfishing for some of America’s most valuable and vulnerable ocean fish populations.”
Opponents of FSIA disapprove of the bill’s requirement that managers have a modern, recent assessment in hand in order to set an annual catch limit (ACL) for a stock of fish. Terrestrial and freshwater wildlife resource management agencies would not think of operating without standardized stock surveys and assessments. Yet, for our marine resources, it appears that some groups believe that “readily available information such as biology” is adequate to replace a standardized, peer-reviewed stock assessment as the foundation of management, even when it has drastic social and economic consequences. A hodgepodge of partial bits of information that perhaps add up to an informed guess will always fall short of the standards we as a nation have used for managing our fish and wildlife resources.
At its core, FSIA rejects the notion that a swag — a scientific wild ass guess — is good enough to be the foundation of management for hundreds of marine stocks that have either never had an assessment or have been deemed inadequately assessed by NOAA Fisheries.
From their same artful hatchet job opponents maintain: FSIA would “undermine the ACL requirement by exempting managers from setting science-based catch limits for fish populations that have not been assessed in the past five years. It would also prevent managers from using scientifically valid methods for establishing catch limits based on existing and readily available information such as the biology of the species and recent commercial and recreational catch data.”
In fact, federal fisheries managers have taken actions in the past to prevent overfishing in the absence of a quantitative assessment by proactive use of aggregate bag limits, vessel limits, minimum size limits, gear restrictions, seasonal and areal closures and other common sense measures. Without passage of H.R. 2304, managers will be forced to abandon these approaches and set an artificial quota (a dart thrown at the wall) in pounds per year without the science to back such measures. In response to this conundrum, the regional fishery management councils currently are removing species from management plans and leaving them without any conservation measures for protection. You will not see that harsh reality addressed in any of the attack pieces currently circulating.
The inaccurate ENGO piece also distorts the status quo and misleads the reader on the legislation when it claims, “The misnamed ‘Fisheries Science Improvement Act’ would create a new loophole that could allow the Secretary of Commerce to exempt scores of fish species from the requirement to establish science-based catch limits, including those that are undergoing overfishing. H.R. 2304 would establish a new, ill-defined category of fish populations known as ‘ecosystem stocks’ that are exempt from catch limits.”
In fact, ecosystem management has been promoted by scientists and conservationists for years and is currently used by NOAA Fisheries. But to manage larger core groups of like-species as “ecosystem stocks” with aggregate bag limits, vessel limits, minimum size limits, gear restrictions, seasonal and areal closures and other common sense measures will provide broad protections for the greatest number of species while science catches up with specific quantitative assessments.
The stocks we know are vulnerable (through assessments) are already being managed by catch limits and other conservation tools. We do not know the status of the vast majority of other species now covered by federal fishery management plans. H.R. 2304 will promote the development of the data and science necessary to determine the status of these data-poor stocks while allowing the fishery management councils to continue managing them with measures other than arbitrary caps on annual pounds landed. This will let the councils retain the ability to use existing tools, their backgrounds and experience, and common sense to forge a balanced management approach that provides protection to these stocks without unnecessarily crushing the economic engine provided to this country by the businesses that support the fishing industry.
The specious claim advanced is that the mere existence of the statutory ACL requirement has improved stock assessments and data collection. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not a single ACL has been implemented for any of the hundreds of healthy stocks as a result of this provision.
The ENGO then lists stocks of fish that could be exempted from the ACL provisions of the statute as a result of FSIA. I can report that almost without exception, every stock listed is currently managed by quotas, gear restrictions, trip limits, effort limitation programs, closed areas, closed seasons, size limits, and individual and/or aggregate bag limits. All these classic fishery management tools are working.
Let’s not abandon classic fishery management tools for one-size-fits-all ACLs when we do not have the data to inform that decision making. Let’s give improved science a chance to work for conservation.
Tags: Fishery Science Improvement Act, FSIA, Magnuson-Stevens Act
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CCA comments to Senate focus on negative impacts to recreational fisheries
WASHINGTON, DC - In response to a growing chorus of frustration, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing today before the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee on implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Bill Bird, a long-time volunteer leader in the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), was invited to testify on how MSA implementation is impacting recreational fisheries.
“Bill has been fishing Florida for decades and is well-versed in the difficulties of federal fisheries management, and he informed the Subcommittee about all of the things recreational anglers have been talking about and struggling with for the past four years,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “Simply put, there is a management crisis facing many recreational fisheries with the implementation of the 2006 reauthorization of MSA.”
Among other issues, the 2006 amendments to MSA included a provision requiring “annual catch limits” or ACLs that must not be exceeded for every federally managed fishery. However, accurate data is clearly a prerequisite for establishing an ACL and that accurate data has been sorely lacking for the recreational sector.
“Recreational fisheries that have suffered for years from a complete lack of federal management cannot now be expected to implement arguably the most aggressive legal fishery management requirement ever established,” said Bird. “Without a recent, accurate stock assessment and good catch data, there is no way to meet the legal requirements of the 2006 Reauthorization of MSA. It is the legal equivalent of requiring drivers to not exceed the speed limit while driving cars without speedometers.”
Bird’s testimony will also emphasize the importance of allocation; highlight the federal government’s failure to implement the national recreational registry program by 2009, and review well-known current and pending fisheries debacles including South Atlantic red snapper, black sea bass, dolphin, wahoo and cobia.
“These problems are creating a damaging rift between conservation-minded anglers and the federal agencies charged with managing our fisheries. It is critical that before annual catch limits are imposed on data-poor fisheries and fisheries that have had no assessments, the Congress must require the stocks actually be assessed,” Bird said.
For a complete copy of the testimony, click HERE.
CCA is the largest marine resource conservation group of its kind in the nation. With almost 100,000 members in 17 state chapters, CCA has been active in state, national and international fisheries management issues since 1977. For more information visit the CCA Newsroom at www.JoinCCA.org.
Tags: Magnuson-Stevens Act, MSA
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Anglers frustrated with unrealistic implementation of Magnuson-Stevens Act
SILVER SPRINGS, MD – A three-day workshop on annual catch limits (ACLs) sponsored by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that concludes this week leaves very little hope that the recreational sector will find a way to mitigate the negative impacts of ACLs without a legislative fix to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the overarching federal law governing the nation’s fisheries. Rather than addressing problems with the ACL provision, NMFS staff, Council members and stock assessment scientists at the workshop were focused solely on how to more fully implement the ACL requirement in the future.
“This was not an adversarial gathering, but it is clear that NMFS is moving ahead with ACLs with very little concern for the vast differences between commercial fisheries and recreational ones,” said Richen Brame, CCA’s Atlantic States Fisheries director. “Not all fisheries are the same, but clearly the agency does not see any need to modify what has become a one-size-fits-all implementation of annual catch limits, no matter how irrational the results may be.”
The ACL provision was inserted into the 2006 reauthorization of the MSA almost exclusively to put an end to serial commercial overfishing allowed in some fisheries, most notably the New England groundfish fishery. Based on that provision, however, NMFS is putting in place strict measures to end overfishing for all fisheries in all regions, despite overwhelming evidence that they are not compatible or even defensible given the lack of information the agency has for recreational fisheries.
“No one would argue that ending overfishing is necessary, but the agency is closing down fisheries like black sea bass where an update assessment was last done in 2005 and the last full assessment was done in 2001. There has never even been a modern assessment on cobia, dolphin or wahoo in the South Atlantic, nor are there indications of trouble, but there are ultra-conservative options in play to prevent overfishing on those stocks that would slash recreational catch limits,” said Brame. “This is a system that is designed to fail, and NMFS will likely find it very difficult to rebuild any sense of trust or cooperation with the recreational fishing community if it continues down this path.”
Marine industry leaders will have another chance to engage federal managers on implementation problems the Magnuson-Stevens Act when Dr. Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and senior NMFS officials meet with boat manufacturers and tackle companies at the Miami International Boat Show this weekend.
“The agency does not have to implement this provision in this manner, and that is something we continue to convey to NOAA’s leadership,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “The agency should make a deeper commitment to more frequent stock assessments using fishery independent data and improved recreational catch data. That is certainly a better use for the $36 million that is currently set aside for catch share programs in the NMFS budget. Barring that, a legislative fix is likely the only realistic option to inject some sanity into fisheries management.”
Tags: ACLs, Annual catch limits, Magnuson-Stevens Act, MSA, NOAA Fisheries
Posted in CCA Atlantic States, CCA Federal Fisheries, CCA Gulf of Mexico, CCA South Atlantic, Magnuson-Stevens Act | No Comments »
By Ted Venker
Coastal Conservation Association
They say that fishing is the world’s second oldest occupation, so it is likely there have been more ironic events in its long, storied history, but the recent letter from Massachusetts’s Governor Deval Patrick to President Obama must rank near the top of the list.
For those of you who missed it, Gov. Patrick expressed his “extraordinary frustration” with the lack of responsiveness the Commonwealth has experienced with the U.S. Department of Commerce and its agencies on the challenges facing commercial fishermen in Massachusetts. The Governor is upset with the severe regulations that have been placed on his hard-working commercial fishing community and the effect it is having on the state’s economy.
To back up his arguments, Gov. Patrick cited economic statistics to demonstrate commercial fishing’s vital role in Massachusetts’s history and economy. The industry, he said, employs approximately 80,000 people in fisheries and related shore side businesses, and generates $4.4 billion in sales. Those figures are slightly suspect – using the federal economic impact model puts the commercial fishery economic impact of Massachusetts at $416.9 million in landed value, producing $1.9 billion in total sales and 35,609 jobs. The additional jobs and dollars come from the retail sector involved with importing seafood that is not even from the State of Massachusetts. But let’s play along.
There is no doubt that commercial fishing is a huge part of Massachusetts’s culture. Anyone who has read “Cod” by Mark Kurlansky will appreciate how fishermen essentially built the state. There is a reason a wooden replica of a cod has hung in the Massachusetts’s statehouse.
Conversely, anyone who has read “Cod” will also be familiar with the ironic part of this story. In “building” the state of Massachusetts, commercial fishing also proceeded to essentially destroy what was once some of the most prolific, profitable fishing grounds in the world. Serial, rampant commercial overfishing reduced stocks to mere shadows of their former productivity, and there are doubts whether cod will ever return to its former abundance. Among other hurdles, many of the nooks and crannies in the rocks of the ocean bottom that served as cod habitat have been smashed flat by decades of rock-hopper trawls, creating the possibility that cod simply can’t come back.
The signs that groundfish stocks were in serious trouble have been apparent for decades, but every time anyone attempted to rein in commercial fishing, the howl and cry from the fishing industry was enough to beat it back. Management plans that had no real chance of success were adopted again and again in response to enormous political pressure. Pressure not unlike the current letter from Gov. Patrick to President Obama.
It became apparent to powerful groups in the environmental community that managers were in an impossible situation when it came to Northeast fisheries. There was no way to effectively manage those stocks if it meant impinging on such a vital and revered cog in the region’s economy. So in 2006, those groups acted. In an effort to directly address the chronic problems in the Northeast, certain provisions were incorporated into the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the overarching federal law that manages the nation’s fisheries.
Those provisions required Annual Catch Limits (ACLs), Accountability Measures (AMs), and an end to all overfishing by a date certain (2010). They were heavily promoted by environmental groups, some of which are expending enormous amounts of time and resources on oceans programs. Those provisions were directly aimed at installing some backbone to manage New England’s disastrous commercial groundfish fisheries.
Any attempt to end overfishing is generally appealing to a conservationist, but the ramifications of those provisions on the recreational sector were not truly appreciated or even understood at the time. Over the past few years, it has become painfully apparent to anyone associated with marine recreational fisheries that the federal agency in charge of managing those fisheries – NOAA Fisheries (formerly the National Marine Fisheries Service, formerly the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries) – has not the science or data or even the interest to properly manage recreational fisheries to the requirements of those provisions. The terrestrial model of wildlife management that has been applied so successfully to ducks, geese, turkey, deer, elk, bass, etc, is nowhere to be found in the nation’s oceans.
Because NOAA Fisheries has failed to collect the required data and science, it has a very limited ability to properly manage recreational fisheries. Nonetheless, the provisions that were aimed directly at New England’s commercial groundfish disaster are now being applied to ALL fisheries in ALL other regions, including highly valuable recreational fisheries. The most dramatic examples can be found in the South Atlantic where fishery after fishery is being impacted to comply with the letter of the law. In one case, black sea bass, which hasn’t had a full assessment in 10 years, is being closed down. Dolphin, wahoo and cobia have never even had an assessment and there are no indications of trouble, but dramatic reductions are on the table as an ultra-conservative way to comply with the provision to end overfishing.
The painfully ironic part to this whole sordid tale is that while Gov. Patrick tries to roll back the New England provisions to preserve New England commercial fishermen, those same provisions are wreaking havoc in Florida, for example, where recreational fishing expenditures dwarf the vaunted economic might of the Massachusetts commercial sector. In Florida, recreational expenditures are calculated at $17.6 billion and support $15.1 billion in sales and 138,754 jobs. Even in Massachusetts, recreational anglers are not an insignificant part of the economic picture, spending $817.6 million dollars on trip and annual expenditures, supporting $850.5 million in sales and supporting 6,446 jobs.
There is a chance that Gov. Patrick, in order to preserve the commercial sector that decimated the stocks in the first place, will find some success. Like so many before him, he may actually be able to apply the same political pressure that provoked those provisions in Magnuson so that his fishing industry can keep fishing. That would be truly ironic, since recreational fisheries that are far more valuable to the country are being penalized and discouraged by the laws that were created to correct the sins of the commercial sector.
Sadly, there are not many indications that anyone in federal fisheries management is serious about changing the way this country elects to manage its marine resources either.
Gov. Patrick is right to express his “extraordinary frustration” with federal fisheries management. Ironically enough, I’m frustrated, too.
Tags: Magnuson-Stevens Act, MSA
Posted in CCA Atlantic States, CCA Blogs, CCA Federal Fisheries, CCA Gulf of Mexico, CCA Pacific Northwest, CCA South Atlantic, Magnuson-Stevens Act | No Comments »