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Pallone Introduces Legislation Bringing Much-Needed Flexibility to Magnuson-Stevens Act

Press Release

Location: Seaside Heights, NJ


U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), a senior member of the House Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee, today announced that he will introduce legislation tomorrow in Washington that will bring much-needed flexibility to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2007.

The New Jersey congressman was joined at today's news conference by recreational and commercial fishermen who support the legislation, as well as New Jersey State Senator John Adler, who announced the introduction of a state resolution in support of Pallone's flexibility bill.

Pallone is increasingly concerned that the process of managing our nation's fisheries is unfair and oftentimes leads to unwarranted outcomes. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, fishery rebuilding plans must meet a rigid 10-year deadline to rebuild fishing stocks to unprecedented levels. This timetable has led to consistent cuts to some fisheries, hurting fishing communities economically.

The New Jersey congressman believes that more flexibility is needed in the process so that unrealistic quotas are not implemented to the detriment of our fishermen and New Jersey's shore economy. He points to comments made by fisheries management experts that rebuilding requirements are too rigid and may not be the best way to manage species in diverse environments.

"When deciding how best to rebuild fish stocks in complex environments, we must use sound biology and science not arbitrary deadlines set by Congress," Pallone said. "The legislation I'm introducing in Congress is about rational rebuilding, and it is the best way to rebuild our fisheries without bankrupting tackle shops, party boats and commercial fishermen."

Pallone points to the management of summer flounder quotas in recent years as an example of why his legislation is needed. This year, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is cutting the summer flounder quota from 17.1 million pounds to 15.77 million pounds. This is the third cut to the summer flounder quota in three years.

"Based on the consistent cut in quotas in some fisheries and unattainable rebuilding goals in others, I am introducing legislation that will provide limited flexibility and will improve stock assessments by requiring more robust and thorough research," Pallone continued.

The Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2008 will provide the U.S. Secretary of Commerce authority to allow limited flexibility in the rebuilding mandates, but only if one of the following conditions apply:

* The biology of the stock of fish, other environmental conditions, or management measures under an international agreement in which the United States participates dictates otherwise.

* The Secretary determines that the 10-year period should be extended because the cause of the fishery decline is outside the jurisdiction of the Council or the rebuilding program cannot be effective only by limiting fishing activities.

* The Secretary determines an extension would provide for the sustained participation of fishing communities or would minimize the economic impacts on such communities, provided that there is evidence that the stock of fish is on a positive rebuilding trend.

* The Secretary determines that such 10-year period should be extended for one or more stocks of fish of a multi-species fishery, provided that there is evidence that those stocks are on a positive rebuilding trend.

* The Secretary determines an expansion in necessary because of a substantial change to the biomass rebuilding target for the stock of fish concerned after the rebuilding plan has taken effect.

* The Secretary determines an expansion is necessary because the biomass rebuilding target exceeds the highest abundance of the stock of fish in the 25 year period preceding and there is evidence that the stock is on a positive rebuilding trend.

The legislation will also add additional criteria to the biomass stock assessment mandated in the Magnuson Stevens Act to include commercial, residential and industrial development, as well as agricultural activity in coastal areas and its impact on the marine environment. It also calls for the assessment of the relationship between predator and prey and other environmental and ecological changes to the marine conditions in the stock assessment.

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