NEW JERSEY LAWMAKERS SUCCEED AT INCLUDING SUMMER FLOUNDER PROVISION IN MAGNUSON-STEVENS ACT
Four New Jersey lawmakers lauded reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act tonight after they fought to include a provision extending until 2013 the rebuilding time frame for summer flounder. The reauthorization bill, which updates our nation's fisheries management laws, was passed by the House late tonight after winning approval in the Senate on Thursday.
U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Jim Saxton (R-NJ) and U.S. Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) worked to include in the bill language allowing the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to extend the end of the time period for reaching the summer flounder biomass target until 2013.
The four lawmakers' provision grants a legislative extension of the rebuilding time frame to force the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to take action and avert drastically low quotas for this important fishery. While the resulting quotas will still be the lowest ever, the lawmakers said this language will avoid a dramatically low quota that could have resulted in a virtual shutdown of the entire fishery.
"It is unfortunate that we had to resort to legislation to avoid a disaster with the summer flounder fishery, but this will give us a much better quota than the National Marine Fisheries Service originally proposed," Pallone said. "I 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."
"After working on this issue for the last several months, I am very pleased to see a fix for summer flounder in the bill. This language strikes a good balance between continuing to allow the fluke stocks to grow and protecting the economies of our coastal communities," Saxton said. "Overall this bill also represents a good compromise that will result in significant improvements to our marine fisheries management."
"We're trying to achieve balance between protecting New Jersey's fisherman and improving conservation. In this bill, we worked together to achieve that balance," Lautenberg said. "This is proof that we can protect our environment and its wildlife, and promote our economy at the same time."
"Summer flounder is a tremendously important resource for New Jersey's recreational fishing, commercial fishing, and tourism industries," Menendez said. "The National Marine Fisheries Service's proposal would have unnecessarily decimated these industries. However, I am hopeful we can move forward on a sustainable path for continuing to rebuild the fishery without causing extreme economic harm."
The reauthorized Act also contains a provision intended to improve data collection from the recreational sector, which will benefit New Jersey anglers, who have long known that the Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey (MRFSS) system is wildly inaccurate in estimating recreational landings and is completely inappropriate for use in stock allocation decisions.
The lawmakers also pointed to language in this bill that requires the Secretary to improve the program to ensure accurate data collection and incorporate the results of a recent National Research Council report. It also includes a provision that prevents a fee from being imposed until at least 2011, preempting a NMFS proposal to implement a license that could have cost up to $35 annually for the right to fish.