U.S. Senate subcommittee conducts fourth fisheries hearing

The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held its fourth Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act reauthorization hearing Tuesday, focusing on fisheries science.

The hearing was chaired by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), convened the hearing. “We thank Chairman Sullivan for gathering the Subcommittee for this important series of hearings on the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “The Senate has heard from federal fisheries officials, all stakeholders and scientific experts regarding the condition of our nation’s fisheries. The need for updates to the Magnuson-Stevens Act is abundantly clear, and we have confidence Chairman Sullivan will use the information revealed in these hearings to better serve the American people and our fisheries.”  

Hearing witnesses included the following:

  • Dr. Ray Hilborn, professor at University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences;
  • Dr. Larry McKinney, director of Texas A&M University Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies;
  • Karl Haflinger, founder and president of Sea State, Inc.;
  • Dr. Michael Jones, professor at Michigan State University Quantitative Fisheries Center.

Dr. Hilborn reported to the committee that, “Overfishing remains a concern for a limited number of stocks but should not continue to be the most important concern for U.S. fisheries policy.” And while he pointed to some positive outcomes brought by implementing total allowable catch for “individually targeted, large scale industrial fisheries,”  he argued it is totally inappropriate for recreational fisheries.  

Earlier this year, the “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017” (Modern Fish Act) was introduced in both chambers of Congress to address the unworkable requirements placed on the recreational fishing sector by MSA.

The bipartisan Modern Fish Act (S. 1520/H.R. 2023) is based on the recommendations provided by the Morris-Deal Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, established in 2013 to bring meaningful recreational fishing policy recommendations to the discussion of reauthorizing MSA.  

Dr. McKinney, chairman of the Morris-Deal Commission, spoke to those recommendations today in the Senate.

“Recreational fish should be managed, not as a commodity, but as a natural resource belonging to all Americans and accessible by all Americans,” McKinney said. “Flexibility to meet differing regional angler needs, as well as, ecological and biological subtitles across large geographic reaches is essential.”

The Modern Fish Act would finally recognize the differences between commercial and recreational fishing by allowing alternative management tools for recreational fishing that are proven in other jurisdictions; reexamining fisheries allocations; smartly rebuilding fish stocks, and improving recreational data collection.

The bill aims to benefit fishing access and conservation by incorporating modern management approaches, science and technology to guide decision-making.

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