October 17, 2011 FacebookTwitter More...

Jones cosponsors fisheries rebuilding flexibility bill

Congressman Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., has joined New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone in introducing bipartisan legislation to give federal fisheries managers increased flexibility in rebuilding U.S. fisheries. 

The bill – H.R. 3061, the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act – was introduced in late September.  

H.R. 3061 would amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management Act to allow the 10-year time period for rebuilding fisheries to be extended under certain common-sense circumstances. In allowing such flexibility, the bill would provide for timely restoration of healthy fisheries while also preventing fishermen from being put out of business because of the rigid timelines contained in the Magnuson Act. 

The existing statutory 10-year rebuilding deadline is not based on science and has become increasingly harmful to the livelihoods of fishermen across the country. 

For example, in North Carolina the commercial and recreational black sea bass fisheries were closed prematurely this year when the annual catch limits specified in the South Atlantic Council’s 10-year rebuilding plan were hit. 

If H.R. 3061 became law, fisheries managers would have the flexibility to increase catch limits for species like black sea bass. 

Jones is a long-time advocate for rebuilding flexibility, having introduced the first rebuilding flexibility bill in 2007. 
“The Magnuson Act's arbitrary rebuilding schedules are harming America’s commercial and recreational fishermen and the families, businesses and communities they support,” Jones said. “In North Carolina, fishermen’s access to economically important fisheries – including black sea bass and other fisheries in the snapper-grouper complex – are being unnecessarily restricted due to the current rebuilding mandates.  Reasonable flexibility can provide much needed relief while still rebuilding fish stocks.

“I do not understand why in this economy the government would require rebuilding of a fish stock in 10 years even when that causes widespread economic dislocation, and when if given a few more years, the fish stock could be rebuilt with minimal economic hardship to fishermen. The lack of common sense here is stunning, and North Carolina fishermen should not have to bear the burden,” Jones said.
H.R. 3061 would allow fisheries managers to extend the 10-year rebuilding timeline if, among other things:

-The biology of the stock, other environmental conditions, or management measures under an international agreement in which the United States participates dictates otherwise.

The cause of the fishery decline is outside the jurisdiction of the Council or the rebuilding program cannot be effective only by limiting fishing activities.

A substantial change is made to the biomass rebuilding target for the stock of fish concerned after the rebuilding plan has taken effect.

It is necessary to provide for the sustained participation of fishing communities or to minimize impacts on such communities, provided there is evidence that the stock is on a positive rebuilding trend.

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