Coalition seeks to avoid fisheries management “train wreck”

Overwhelmed agency incapable of properly implementing law

Posted on February 24, 2010

Passage of the 2006 Magnuson-Stevens Act, the overarching law that manages America’s marine fisheries, revealed crippling deficiencies within the agency charged with implementing the law. Recently, a coalition of marine angling and industry groups launched an effort to improve the National Marine Fisheries Service’s efforts to manage the nation’s marine resources and the 13 million saltwater anglers who depend on healthy fisheries.

“We have the most conservation-oriented law we have ever had governing our marine resources, and the agency does not have the data, assessments, science or, frankly, the attitude, to adequately implement it,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “The result is that the agency has been reduced to managing fisheries by closure which was not the intent of the law when it was passed by Congress.”
In addition to requiring an end to all overfishing by 2011, the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have a determination on the overfished status of every species under management, and have annual catch limits and accountability measures in place for them by a time certain as well.
“For far too many species, there is not any science at all to do that and to develop it will take one to three years for every single species,” said Brewer. “With its startling lack of data, there is no way NMFS can catch up on decades of work and the agency will be crushed by its lack of science. The entire federal management system will be forced to ignore real conservation and management issues, and simply manage by closure. The coalition is seeking a way to fulfill the conservation tenets of the law without driving the entire process into a train wreck.”
Current efforts to revise the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including the so-called “flexibility” legislation (H.R.1584 and S.1171) do not address the shortcomings of NMFS that are negatively impacting anglers and, in fact, jeopardize a number of the true conservation gains in the Act.
“H.R.1584 and S.1171 do not provide for better data-gathering or prevent the imposition of in-season closures when NMFS believes there is a danger of overfishing, nor do they improve recreational data and the way it is used. It just delays rebuilding,” said Brewer. “That is not where the problem lies.”
Among other administrative and appropriations requests, the coalition is urging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to convene a blue ribbon panel to identify the long-term data, statistical, research and funding needs of the regional fishery science centers. The outcomes of this panel will help to inform the appropriation needs related to recreational fishing data and statistics for NMFS and coastal state fishery agencies.
“There is a great deal of frustration among recreational anglers, much of it attributable to an agency that doesn't have the ability to properly manage us,” said Pat Murray, president of CCA. “The shortcomings of NMFS have to be fixed, either administratively or by Congress. Recreational anglers deserve both a meaningful law, and an agency capably of implementing it.”
Read an example of the train wreck 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. Visit for more information.
CONTACT: Ted Venker, 1-800-201-FISH