MAGNUSON-STEVENS FISHERY CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - December 08, 2006)
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Mr. PALLONE. I want to thank our ranking member, Mr. Rahall, for all his contributions in getting this to the floor this evening. I know it was not easy to get us here to achieve the consensus that we have tonight. I would also like to thank on the other side of the aisle obviously our chairman, Mr. Pombo, and Mr. Young as well. I know this will be the last day, I guess, that we have this opportunity, Mr. Chairman, but I want to say that throughout your tenure as the chairman of the Resources Committee, I could always count on you to be honest and forthright about everything. And even though oftentimes we did disagree, there were many times when we agreed on different matters. So I want to thank you for your tenure and obviously look forward also to the gentleman from Alaska (Mr. Young) as our ranking member. He is another person who speaks his mind and certainly manages to get things done.
I want to support this legislation. I think that it is a very important and comprehensive bill that updates our Nation's fisheries management laws, but I want to mention two provisions that are critically important to my constituents in New Jersey at the Jersey shore. First, it includes legislative discretion allowing the Secretary of Commerce to extend the rebuilding time frame for summer flounder. I, along with many of my colleagues from New Jersey, particularly Mr. Saxton, strongly believe that existing law gives NMFS the administrative flexibility to avoid making drastic cuts in next year's summer flounder quota, but the service consistently refused to use that flexibility. We are thus granting a legislative extension of the rebuilding time frame to force the administration to take action and avert drastically low quotas for this important fishery. While the resulting quotas will still be the lowest ever, this language will avoid a dramatically low quota that could have resulted in a virtual shutdown of the entire fishery.
I am also glad to see that this bill contains a provision intended to improve data collection from the recreational sector. Anglers in my district have long known that the MRFSS system is widely inaccurate in estimating recreational landings and is completely inappropriate for use in stock allocation decisions. The language in this bill will help by requiring the secretary to improve the program to ensure accurate data collection and incorporate the results of a recent National Research Council report. I am also glad that the provision prevents a fee from being imposed until at least 2011, preempting an administration proposal to implement a license that could have cost up to $35 annually for the right to fish.
I will acknowledge that the overall bill is far from perfect. There are provisions in here that I am not completely happy with. And there are other items I would have liked to include. But I know that neither the fishing nor the environmental community are completely happy with every single word, and probably that means it is a very good bill.
This bill does represent an overall improvement in the management of our Nation's fisheries and strikes a balance between conserving stocks and ensuring productive fisheries. It is my fervent hope that this bill will bring some greater sense into a fisheries management system that to the average angler seems confusing at best and completely irrational at worst. We here in Congress have a duty to closely examine the outcomes of this law and closely oversee its implementation by the administration.
Again, I thank all my colleagues and particularly our chairman and ranking member.
I forgot to mention the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Gilchrest), and I apologize, for all your work in putting this together. Thanks again, too, WAYNE.
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