Top ScientistS agree with pallone: fluke rebuilding targets are too rigid, need flexibility
Today, the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans held a hearing, requested by U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), to discuss rebuilding overfished fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). The hearing brought expert fisheries scientists, the environmental community and the fishing community together to discuss the challenges in meeting the rebuilding targets set forth in the MSA.
Pallone, who has been an outspoken critic of the rebuilding targets set in the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act, requested this hearing due to concerns that have been raised by recreational and commercial fishermen. These targets have led to massive cuts to yearly summer flounder quotas in an attempt to reach the current rebuilding targets set forth in the law.
"I believe that the science used to create the rebuilding targets is flawed," Pallone said. "Before we cut our summer flounder quotas, we need to improve upon the data used to inform managers."
At the hearing, multiple experts in marine science testified that the rebuilding targets are not exact and may not be the best way to manage species in diverse environments. Dr. Eric Powell, the Director at the Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory at Rutgers University, stated of summer flounder that, "the rebuilding goal is highly uncertain." And that the Magnuson rebuilding requirements are "uncompromisingly rigid."
Dr. Michael Sessenwine, a visiting scholar at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Marine Science Consultant stated that, "it is not reasonable to expect that the rebuilding to an uncertain estimate of biomass-maximum-sustainable-yield (Bmsy) can be achieved on a schedule with a high degree of certainty. Attempting to do so will require far more restrictive fisheries management than we have seen to date, including closing some fisheries entirely."
"Today's hearing showed that scientists also agree that the rebuilding targets and deadlines may be too rigid for certain species," Pallone said after the hearing. "They also admitted that the science used to create the targets mandated in the Magnuson-Stevens Act is imprecise and should not be used to create arbitrary deadlines for rebuilding."
Pallone said he plans to continue working with the fishing community and other members of Congress in order to introduce legislation that will add sensible flexibility to the MSA.
"After listening to the testimony from each of the witnesses, it is clear to me that Congress may have to act in order fix the summer flounder problem", said Pallone. "This could include writing flexibility into the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act or extending the rebuilding deadlines for the summer flounder fishery."