The Magnuson-Stevens Act: Reauthorization on the Horizon

We know that folks are focused on striped bass right now. And for good reason, given the potential approval of the Amendment 7 Public Information Document at this week’s Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting. But there are potentially big changes afoot at the federal fisheries level as well, and we want to take a moment to bring everyone up to speed and explain where ASGA stands.

Some of you may be familiar with the Magnuson-Stevens Conservation and Management Act, commonly known as MSA, which is the landmark fisheries management law for fisheries in U.S. federal waters (generally extend from 3-200 miles offshore). It does not apply to state-managed fisheries like striped bass and menhaden, but that’s a topic for another post. Enacted in 1976, MSA was subsequently reauthorized in 1996 and 2006, with each reauthorization further strengthening the conservation tenets of the law, including strict rebuilding timelines, use of the best available science, and requirements to adhere to annual catch limits. Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen MSA successfully rebuild 47 stocks, but there are still areas where the law’s conservation and management provisions could be significantly strengthened.

With another reauthorization potentially on the table for the 117th Congress (more on that below), we have developed a policy platform outlining our priorities for management:

  1. Keep MSA Strong
  2. Further Enhance Recreational Data Collection and Research
  3. Secure Federal Protections for Forage Fish
  4. Prepare for Climate-Ready Fisheries
  5. Improve Habitat Protections
  6. Get Unhealthy Fisheries Back on Track

You can read our entire policy platform by clicking the image below, or for a short, two-page summary, click here.

Click here for the full Policy Platform.

Congressmen Huffman and Case Introduce Discussion Draft to Reauthorize MSA

On December 18, 2020, Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA-2) and Congressman Ed Case (D-HI-1) began circulating a discussion draft to reauthorize MSA. During the last Congress, Congressman Huffman, who serves as the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee’s Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee, held eight listening sessions around the country to hear from fishery stakeholders on their priorities for MSA reauthorization; ASGA’s Vice President and Policy Director was one of the panelists at the November 2019 listening session in Baltimore. If you’d like to learn more without slogging through the full 195 pages, here’s a one-pager on the legislation along with a four-page section-by-section summary.

The bill includes five titles:

  1. Climate-Ready Fisheries
  2. Supporting Fishing Communities
  3. Strengthening Public Process and Transparency
  4. Modernizing Fisheries Science and Data
  5. Supporting Fisheries Through Health Ecosystems and Improved Management

Overall, we were happy to see our priorities addressed in the discussion draft, including substantial changes to promote climate-ready fisheries, habitat protection, effective forage fish management, and improvements to recreational fisheries data collection. We did, however, have some concerns and recommendations with the draft bill, which we recently submitted to Congressmen Huffman’s and Case’s offices for consideration (click the image to view the full letter).

Click here for the full letter.

Needless to say, it’s very early in the process; we’ve just wrapped up the first month of the new Congress, and the Huffman-Case reauthorization bill is still in draft form at this time. We’ll be sure to keep folks posted as the legislators work to incorporate proposed changes from stakeholders and potentially introduce a reauthorization bill in the coming months.

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