June 3, 2015

House passes fisheries reform bill

On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1335 – the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.  The bill would reauthorize and reform the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which is the law governing fisheries management in federal waters throughout the United States. 

H.R. 1335 passed the House by a vote of 225 to 152.  The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration. 

“Eastern North Carolina fishermen deserve the reforms this bill would provide,” said U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. “Fishermen have unnecessarily sacrificed for years because of flaws in the existing law.  If we can get more flexibility in rebuilding fisheries, and more transparency and accountability in management, everybody wins.  Fishing stocks get recovered, and the jobs and economic activity associated with fishing can be restored.” 

Congressman Jones is the author of two of H.R. 1335’s core provisions to improve flexibility and transparency in fisheries management. 

On flexibility, the bill included language Congressman Jones originally introduced in 2007 as H.R. 4087 – the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act.  That language would amend the Magnuson-Stevens 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 ensuring that fishermen are not put out of business because of the rigid timelines currently in the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

On transparency, the bill included language from legislation Congressman Jones originally introduced in 2011 as H.R. 2753 – the Fishery Management Transparency and Accountability Act.  That language would bring sunlight to the proceedings of federal fisheries managers by requiring federal Regional Fishery Management Councils to broadcast their meetings live over the Internet.  It would also require transcripts and video/audio recordings of council and Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) meetings to be made freely available to the public. Congressman Jones was alerted to the need for this language after hearing from fishermen who wanted to follow the councils’ proceedings but could not do so due to the time and expense involved with attending in person.
H.R. 1335 also includes language to rein in catch-share programs on the Atlantic Coast.  Congressman Jones has championed this issue for many years through successful efforts to strip federal funding for new catch share programs, which destroy fishing jobs and communities.  The bill includes language that would require a majority of permit holders in a fishery to vote for a new program before it could be imposed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.  Fishermen in the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic regions do not currently have that right.

comments powered by Disqus