The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in United States federal waters. It expires at the end of Fiscal Year 2013. The Act was first enacted in 1976 and amended in 1996. Most notably, the Magnuson-Stevens Act aided in the development of the domestic fishing industry by phasing out foreign fishing. To manage the fisheries and promote conservation, the Act created eight regional fishery management councils. The 1996 amendments focused rebuilding overfished fisheries, protecting essential fish habitat, and reducing bycatch.
Legislators are holding hearings as Congress considers reauthorizing the Act. Some of the specific issues that have been raised include:
- Basing annual catch limits on better science
- Requiring participant approval of new catch share programs
- Allowing rebuilding flexibility for certain fisheries
- Using NOAA enforcement funds to acquire better fisheries information
- Requiring decisions on commercial fisheries disaster assistance in a timely manner
- Requiring better transparency for the activities and decisions of the regional fishery management councils.
These and other issues will continue to be examined by Congress.
Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries is advocating for changes to the Magnuson Stevens Act. Executive Director Robin Alden testified in Washington about the need for ecosystem-based management and the inclusion of fishermen is the regulatory process.
Read an Op-Ed by Robin Alden in the Bangor Daily News: Feds should ask local fishermen how to manage fish stocks