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New Jersey Lawmakers Laud Signing of Magnuson-Stevens Act Into Law

Location: Washington, DC


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) lauded President Bush for signing into law legislation reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Act today at the White House. Pallone and Saxton attended the bill signing this morning.

The legislation, which updates our nation's fisheries management laws, was approved by both the Senate and House last month before being sent to the president's desk today.

The four New Jersey lawmakers worked to include in the law 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 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.

"Today marks the final chapter in a long saga of trying to bring some sanity to the management of summer flounder," Pallone said. "It's unfortunate we couldn't work with the Administration to resolve this earlier, but at least New Jersey's anglers can breathe a little easier. I hope the new law will also, in the long run, help balance conserving stocks with protecting anglers' rights."

"It is gratifying that we were able to work together to craft a good fisheries bill for the nation that aims to both rebuild our fisheries stocks and stop overfishing," said Saxton, whose provisions to aid New Jersey's summer flounder industry were included in the legislation with the bipartisan support of the New Jersey delegation. "We were also able to include some help for our Jersey Shore fishing communities which depends on a reasonable fluke quota. With the President's signature, that help is now law."

"The law signed by the President today is a victory for New Jersey fishermen as well as the environment," said Lautenberg. "Also included in the legislation are strong provisions I authored to protect deep water corals that are critically important habitats, and vital to other underwater species."

"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 new law 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.

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