The Act, which includes a number of significant changes to the fisheries management system in the United States, has been under development since early 2005. Unfortunately, it took until now to bring together all the different interests to reach a final bill. A significant part of the revised Act includes important advances for sportfishing.
Several groups, including the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and Recreational Fisheries Alliance (RFA) brought many of these important sportfishing issues to the fore during Congress' consideration of the bill.
The bill places limits on the creation of no-fishing zones, requiring that they be based on sound science and that a review process be set to determine when and if they are no longer needed. The bill also requires the federal Fishery Management Councils to recognize the economic contributions of sportfishing when setting allocations.
Important conservation measures include:
* A time frame to end overfishing;
* New requirements for reducing bycatch;
* Provisions for buyouts of overcapitalized commercial fleets;
* Extensive provisions on individual fishing quotas for commercial fleets;
* Strengthened enforcement to fight illegal international fishing.
ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman stated, "Both houses of Congress, with strong leadership from Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Congressmen Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Jim Saxton (R-NJ), have crafted a well-balanced bill. We appreciate the Senator's and Congressmen's willingness to listen to and address the issues vital to the sportfishing community. This new law provides a sound basis for improving fisheries conservation and management for the enjoyment of future generations of anglers."
"As with any major legislative effort, you have to pick your battles and operate within the uncertain and constantly changing environment on Capitol Hill" said Jim Donofrio, RFA Executive Director. The RFA commends Congress for improving recreational data collection, prohibiting arbitrary decisions on new no-fishing zones, recognizing the importance of the industry in making catch allocations and distributing disaster relief, and providing flexibility in the rebuilding time frame for summer flounder."
Commenting on the importance of conservation and sound management to quality fishing, ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson said, "Recreational anglers and the businesses that serve them depend on abundant, sustainable and accessible fisheries. We are happy to have a strong new Magnuson-Stevens Act that furthers the protection of our resources."
"NMFS indicated that they would use the language in the bill to grant recreational fishermen immediate relief. We now have to work with NMFS to ensure that they do in fact take the necessary steps to implement an emergency rulemaking which increases the quota for summer flounder in the 2007 season," according to Ray Bogan, RFA general counsel.
"The response from anglers was great. It's invaluable to be able to tell anglers, captains and crews of for-hire boats, tackle shop operators and other marine businesses that their efforts were worthwhile", explained Captain Tony Bogan, a Director of The United Boatmen of New Jersey and New York; an industry group which represents party and charter boat owners and operators.
In the United States, the recreational fishing industry contributes more that $31 billion dollars per year to the economy.
"The recreational fishing community really made their voice heard. Senator Stevens, Senator Inouye, Congressman Pombo, others members of Congress, and Bush Administration officials listened to our concerns, and for that we are thankful" said Jim Donofrio.