March 13, 2008
Another bill in Congress would give more flexibility in rebuilding stocks
By SUSAN WEST
Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) introduced legislation in November that
would give federal fisheries managers some flexibility in setting
deadlines for rebuilding fish stocks to healthy, sustainable levels.
And, last month Jones threw his support behind a very similar bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.).
Joshua Bowlen, legislative director for Jones, said Jones hopes
Pallone, a member of the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and
Oceans, will be able to move that bill forward.
“The bottom line is that Congressman Jones simply wants to see the problem corrected,” Bowlen said.
Pallone’s bill, HR 5425, is nearly identical to Jones’
Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2007
Like HR 4087, the bill aims to ease the economic hardships that hit
fishermen and fishing communities under the rigid 10-year deadlines for
stock recovery set out in the Magnuson-Stevens Conservation and
“When deciding how best to rebuild fish stocks in complex
environments, we must use sound biology and science, not arbitrary
deadlines set by Congress,” said Pallone at a news conference
announcing the legislation.
“The legislation I’m introducing in Congress is about
rational rebuilding, and it is the best way to rebuild our fisheries
without bankrupting tackle shops, party boats and commercial
fishermen,” he continued.
The bill introduced by Pallone, like that introduced by Jones, would
allow managers to extend the 10-year rebuilding time frame in cases
where limiting fishing alone won’t rebuild a stock, where
economic hardships can be minimized when a stock is rebuilding, where
scientists have changed recovery targets after a management plan has
been implemented, and in multi-species fisheries that are rebuilding.
And, both bills include a formula for capping the number of years allowed for stock recovery.
Pallone’s legislation differs from HR 4087 on two points.
It allows managers to extend a rebuilding schedule when a recovery
target exceeds the highest stock abundance of the past 25 years.
It also requires non-fishing influences, such as development,
agriculture, and the predatory behavior of marine species, to be
considered in the evaluation of rebuilding plans.
Environmental groups oppose changing the 10-year rebuilding deadline in
the Magnuson-Stevens Act, maintaining that stocks need to be rebuilt as
quickly as possible.
“My concern is that the temptation to push back rebuilding will
perpetuate management based on politics rather than science, and that
rebuilding would become elusive,” Dan Whittle, director of the
southeast oceans program at Environmental Defense, said in January.
HR 5425 has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans.
The bill has picked up 13 co-sponsors from New England through Texas,
including U.S. Rep Henry Brown of South Carolina, the ranking
Republican on the House Subcommittee.
“We are extremely pleased to see bipartisan support. All of
the sponsors are extremely supportive and recognize the importance of
this bill to both recreational and commercial fishermen,” said
Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.