Today the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife meets to hear
testimony on the progress being made by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the
Regional Fishery Management Councils in setting annual catch limits and accountability
measures to end overfishing and rebuild overfished fish stocks, as required by the
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
This hearing will explore how Annual Catch Limits--or ACLs -- are set, efforts
to improve the type and quality of information that informs management decisions, and
successes and challenges in implementing ACLs and accountability measures.
In 1996, after witnessing the decline of important fisheries around the country,
Congress first required the Councils to end overfishing and rebuild stocks that had been
fished to perilously low levels.
While the Councils implemented numerous rebuilding plans, overfishing
continued in many fisheries. In response, the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act of
2006 went a step further and required that fishery management plans adopt ACLs for
stocks subject to overfishing.
According to the Senate report on the legislation, requiring ACLs was intended
not only to prevent overfishing from occurring, but also to drive improvements in fishery
data collection and research to develop a more precise assessment of the amount of fish
that can be caught. The Act also included specific provisions to strengthen the role of
science in fishery management decision making. Such improvements were intended to
aid in implementing ACLs and accountability measures.
The 2006 amendments brought important advances toward recovering the health
of our nation's fisheries, and we will continue to support the implementation of those
provisions. That said, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Councils have
challenges to meet as they work to meet the statutory deadlines and we welcome
constructive suggestions for assisting them in their efforts to ensure the requirements are
achieved in a timely fashion.
I think it's very important that we are holding this hearing today. It's better to
discuss and seek solutions to the challenges involved in fully implementing the law now,
than to have to return several years from now when these vital resources are further
depleted to try and answer the question of why Congress did not do enough to ensure that
overfishing was brought to an end.