Southeast Regional Perspectives on Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization

Written Statement of the Gulf Seafood Institute Before the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard “Southeast Regional Perspectives on Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization”

November 14, 2013

The Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI) is pleased to present the following written testimony on the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, or MSA. As a voice for the Gulf seafood communities in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, the GSI maintains that, overall, the MSA is working. However, there are areas where changes must be made to ensure the long-term sustainability of both our nation’s fisheries and of the vast economy that our fishermen support.

The mission of the Gulf Seafood Institute is to protect the Gulf’s unique culture and environment while elevating the Gulf seafood brand with consumers, customers and policy leaders through advocacy, education and science. The GSI’s board of directors represents every Gulf state as well as every aspect of the industry – both commercial and recreational – and is positioned to be a leading voice on key issues including sustainability, seafood safety, disaster mitigation and recovery, and data collection. Additionally, GSI will seek to bolster fisheries science and research that will help preserve the Gulf seafood resource and contribute to the longevity of the industry overall. The GSI came together in July 2013 and is currently taking the steps necessary to organize under the laws of the state of Louisiana and will then seek approval of the IRS for determination of approved 501(c)(6) status.

When it comes to ensuring the sustainability of our nation’s fisheries, GSI maintains that the process outlined under MSA is working. The Department of Commerce, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils work together to monitor, manage and enforce a program that has led the United States to its position as a global leader in responsibly managed fisheries and sustainable seafood.  Guided by 10 National Standards of sustainability, these agencies monitor, manage and legally enforce all marine fisheries in the United States under the most restrictive regulations in the world. As a result, U.S. fish populations are rebuilding and overall fish abundance is improving.  According to NOAA’s most recent Status of Stocks report issued to Congress in 2012, thirty-two fish stocks in the U.S. have been rebuilt since 2000 meaning that routine stock assessments conducted by fishery scientists indicate that the abundance of the stock is above the maximum sustainable yield. This is good news not only for our nation’s fishery resources but also for the fishermen, consumers and business supply chain that rely on healthy and wholesome seafood harvested from U.S. waters.

As Congress moves forward with reauthorizing MSA, GSI would like to see the following issues addressed in draft legislation:

Flexibility in Rebuilding Timelines:

  • Timelines for rebuilding fisheries must be relaxed to enhance flexibility for fishery managers.  The current MSA requirement for rebuilding overfished fisheries within ten years, with certain exceptions, is an arbitrary time frame and totally unrelated to the biological needs at hand. Similarly, the requirement to end overfishing immediately considers no other factors. These strict, arbitrary timelines for rebuilding fisheries lead to significant disruptions for the seafood community while the fishery is usually capable of a far more gentle transition.
  • A recent National Research Council (NRC) report issued in September 2013[1] addresses the existing rebuilding needs and realities. GSI is in full agreement with NRC’s recommendations pertaining to a biologically-based approach to rebuilding plans. We urge incorporation of those recommendations into the revised MSA. Establishing a biological basis to rebuilding strategies is a fundamental change to achieve success for the fish stocks and the populace.

Annual Catch Limits:

  • The process for establishing ACLs should be revised to increase flexibility, particularly in cases where a fish stock lacks enough data to make sound management decisions.
  • In order for fishery managers to set appropriate ACLs, data collection must be improved by accounting for actual “take,” both retained and discarded. While upcoming revisions of the National Standard 1 Guidelines might well address this concern, it should be explicitly defined in MSA.

New Funding Sources:

  • Monies collected from marine enforcement actions and permitting fees should stay within the region in which they were collected and not be transmitted to the general fund. These funds should be managed by the relevant Regional Fishery Management Council.
  • Balance should be incorporated into MSA’s enforcement language to ensure that the collection of fines does not drive the process, but instead helps to achieve the true objective of 100% compliance and $0 in fines.

Role of Science and Statistical Committees:

  • In today’s fast-moving world, we should be able to react swiftly by calling SSC and other Council meetings in a more timely manner. The current 28-day notice period for meetings should be more flexible to help address very time-sensitive matters quickly and efficiently. The process is overly long and needs better integration with the demands of NEPA requirements to achieve a balance in time, public access, and reasonable deliberation.

Regional Fishery Management Council Accountability:

  • Strict accountability measures should be established for the Councils and their actions. Measures might include a revision of the Council membership and appointment process to ensure fair and equitable representation from both the commercial and recreational communities as well as consumers. This could be accomplished by simply reinserting the expired subparagraph Sec. 302(b)(1)(D)(i) from the current MSA.

The GSI looks forward to working closely with the Senate Commerce and House Resources Committees over the next several months to address these and other relevant issues as MSA reauthorization moves forward. For more information, please feel free to contact our interim Chairman of the Board Harlon Pearce at 504-382-9805 or nolrah@aol.com.


[1] National Research Council.Division of Earth Life Sciences. Ocean Board. Evaluating the Effectiveness of Fish Stock Rebuilding Plans in the United States. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Academies Press, 2013.

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