Saturday, June 18, 2011

Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act

The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) and a host of other organizations have been opposed to the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSRA) since it was signed into law in 2007.

The RFA opposed annual catch limits, accountability measures and arbitrary management timelines, fearing they would eventually take their toll on the recreational fishing industry.

In an April 7, 2007 letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), RFA Executive Director Jim Donofrio warned that measures of the newly reauthorized law had the potential to negatively impact the recreational fishing sector without offering much in terms of conservation benefit or improvement to our domestic fisheries in return.  "This is particularly worrisome with the issue of annual catch limits (ACL) and accounting measures (AM) contained within MSRA," Donofrio said at the time. 

Critical of the version of MSRA passed by the Senate, the RFA lobbied to incorporate additional management flexibility into the law, leading in early 2007 to efforts by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) to introduce the the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act to try to bring much-needed flexibility to MSRA.  The legislation picked up additional support in the Senate soon after as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced a Senate version of the bill.

Since the 2007 reauthorization, the RFA's public position is that ACL's coupled with AM's and a lack of flexibility with rebuilding timeframes would continue to negatively impact the recreational industry.

As of 2011, the RFA, along with hundreds of grassroots organizations and businesses continues to press federal legislators in both the House and Senate on comprehensive reform of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Donofrio said several coastal legislators have reacted positively to angler concerns regarding NMFS' inability to keep fisheries open in the face of restrictive federal language, praising the support of Congressional representatives likes Jon Runyan (R-NJ), John Mica (R-FL), Walter Jones (D-NC) and others for spearheading individual reform efforts to address MSRA shortcomings.

"We need deadline flexibility, we need to get rid of the accountability measures based on flawed science, and we have to address the problems with annual catch limits in the recreational sector where rebuilt fish stocks are concerned," he added.  "Some say it's a lot to ask, but we're going to need it all if we want to save coastal jobs and keep our members fishing in the 21st Century."

The RFA's full release is available at

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