Senate Holds Final Legislative Hearing On MSA
On Tuesday, September 12, 2017 Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance testified before the Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). Today's hearing is the third and final legislative hearing held in the Senate on MSA reauthorization. The RFA has been in the vanguard demanding reform of this critically important legislation to make it more fair and responsive to recreational fishermen and the multi-billion dollar recreational fishing industry.
"Congress must be made to realize that managing fisheries requires a balance between resource conservation and economic considerations," Donofrio said. "Quite simply, while the system under the current provisions in the MSA has been successful in rebuilding some key fish stocks it has been a dismal failure at translating that success into socioeconomic benefits to fishermen and the recreational fishing industry. It is unnecessarily costing the nation thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in lost economic opportunity."
In his testimony, Donofrio told Senators that we have been asking for your help since MSA was reauthorized in 2007 when amendments were made to the law that created a systemic management problem on a national scale and which is most acutely felt in the recreational sector.
Looking back at original intent of MSA (public law 94-265) signed into law on April 13, 1976, the primary objective of the law was to promote domestic commercial and recreational fishing under sound conservation and management principles. Unfortunately, this noble objective was altered in the 1996 and 2007 reauthorizations and currently, management can only be described as a failure, a total imbalance with recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry losing out.
"The needs of fish have been put at an inordinate level of priority while the needs of the fishing community and industry have been made an afterthought. This is not sound resource management and we are asking that the Senate, along with the House, pass MSA reauthorization bills as soon as possible to restore a balance to the management of our nation's marine resources," continued Donofrio.
The RFA has been and continues to advocate for MSA reform. It foresaw the impending economic train wreck that the law would spawn even before it was signed into law in 2007. Now that the inevitable is occurring in fisheries like black sea bass, red snapper and others around the nation a coalition of recreational fishing groups and industry associations have joined together to promote reform through the passage of the Modernizing Recreational Fishing Management Act. Donofrio's testimony before this Senate Subcommittee is another in a long series of steps taken demanding action.
RFA and other organizations are pushing hard to pass Modern Fish Act bills in the House and Senate. In the House, two bill have been introduced, HR 200 introduced Rep. Don Young from Alaska and HR 2023 introduced by Rep. Garrett Graves from Louisiana. HR2023 is the preferred bill as it addresses issues specific to the recreational sector. A markup hearing is expected in early fall and there is hope that a bill could be passed out of the House by the end of the year. Today's hearing in the Senate is the final legislative hearing on the MSA reauthorization. Action in the Senate is expected to quicken once a House bill is released.
Also testifying at today's hearing and speaking on behalf of the recreational fishing community were Phil Faulkner
, President of Nautic Star Boats and Chris Horton
of the Congressional Sportmen's Foundation. Both speakers enforced the message that recreational anglers support and rely on sound, science-based conservation but that a balance must be struck to ensure that anglers also have a reasonable opportunity to harvest fish.