MAGNUSON-STEVENS FISHERY CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - December 08, 2006)
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Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. I thank the gentleman for yielding. Everybody has been thanked on the floor. I double that.
This is a good piece of legislation. It has been a long time coming. I want to thank the ranking member, of course, Mr. Gilchrest and Mr. Oberstar, and the chairman. This bill will do good for our oceans and for our fisheries. Although it is far from being perfect, we expect to have this finalized tonight and, as has been mentioned before, because it originated in Alaska, the 200-mile limit, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, we will continue to work to improve it. Because it is very, very important that we keep our fisheries sustainable and also to make sure that our oceans are not only protected and conserved but provide the food that is necessary for this Nation of ours.
Again, a lot of work was done, but I can tell you frankly it was the staff on both sides of the aisle, especially on this side, as has already been mentioned. Dave Whaley, who actually used to have hair before he started working on this bill. He doesn't have it anymore. Bonnie Bruce. She is still, I think, relatively attractive and she has been through agony for all types of activity to get this bill done.
I again thank the people that understand the importance and the staff does the majority of work on this. We did do it. The Senate side did it. Now it is the House side's turn to do what is right for the oceans.
Mr. Speaker, while I support this legislation, there are several provisions which need further explanation.
Section 107 provides that the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Regional Councils and the Council on Environmental Policy, shall revise the procedures for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. Those procedures shall integrate NEPA's environmental analytical procedures with the procedures for preparing and approving fishery management plans and amendments under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and shall conform the timelines for NEPA compliance with the timelines for the approval of fishery management plans and amendments established under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The only way those requirements can be met for plans developed by a Council is to use the Council's plan development processes. That means NEPA procedures must be integrated into the Council process which will be the vehicle for identifying the problem to be addressed, identifying the reasonable alternatives to address that problem, identifying the preferred alternative, and examining the environmental consequences, positive and negative, of the preferred alternative and the reasonable alternatives. After the Council completes its processes, the Secretary will have the final responsibility for determining if NEPA has been complied with and may disapprove the plan, plan amendment, or regulation pursuant to section 304(a)(3) of this act.
In addition, there are a number of provisions in this legislation which deal with the, amount and type of information which needs to be submitted to the Secretary by a variety of entities and how that information is to be treated by the Secretary. It is important that proprietary information, confidential economic information, personal information such as tax forms, and other sensitive information be maintained in a manner which does not compromise an individual or a company's reasonable expectation for privacy. The Secretary must develop regulations for the use and the protection of such information which weighs the need for the information for management purposes with a reasonable person's expectation for privacy.
I am also concerned that the provision requiring that harvest levels be set to prevent overfishing not be interpreted to shut down entire fisheries if one stock of a multi-species complex is experiencing overfishing. The purpose of the act is to provide a healthy fishery resource, but it is also to promote commercial and recreational fishing and support communities dependent on the fishery resources. The act should not be used as a tool for stopping all fishing activities in U.S. waters. The keys to achieving these goals are balance, flexibility, and common sense by the fishery managers. The provisions dealing with ending overfishing, rebuilding overfished fisheries, and setting harvest levels to prevent overfishing all need to be taken in the context of the National Standards and need to be viewed with an eye toward balance, flexibility, and common sense.
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