Congress Should Vote No on Bill That Is Bad for Fish and Fishermen

Lately, I’ve been writing about H.R. 1335, a bill that would harm U.S. fishermen, small businesses, and oceans. This legislation, which is heading to the House floor early next week for votes, would weaken the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the nation’s primary law governing management of U.S. ocean fish.

This law has a history of support from both sides of the aisle. In 1996 and 2006, bipartisan groups of congressional leaders worked together to amend and reauthorize the act. With solid backing from the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, Congress updated the law for the benefit of the nation. Lawmakers included strong, science-based measures that have led to the management successes we’re seeing today. Based on recent congressional action, however, I doubt that we will see similar collaboration this time.

President Bush signs the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006. Behind him are lawmakers from both parties. © AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

President Bush signs the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006. Behind him are lawmakers from both parties.

H.R. 1335 takes U.S. fisheries management in the wrong direction. By establishing broad loopholes, the bill could roll back the progress made in rebuilding vulnerable fish populations. It would open the door to overfishing by curbing the use of science-based catch limits. The legislation also would significantly weaken the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, and other bedrock environmental laws. The Magnuson-Stevens Act should be modernized in a way that advances a comprehensive approach to fishery management to help address serious threats facing our oceans, including warming waters and the loss of fish habitat.

I am not the only one who thinks this way. The editor of a daily online seafood industry news service also has come out against the bill. In a strongly worded editorial, recently dubbed H.R. 1335 "The Destabilization of Our Nation’s Fisheries Act."

Many commercial fishermen have urged rejection of a provision under consideration that would transfer red snapper management to the five states bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

More than 170 groups—including recreational and commercial fishermen, small-business owners, and marine science organizations—say they oppose the overall legislation, according to a list posted on the House Natural Resources Committee’s minority website.

As we get down to the wire, I encourage you to read our action alert and urge your member of Congress to reject H.R. 1335. The House needs to start anew to find a consensus approach for updating the Magnuson-Stevens Act to help protect U.S. fishermen, coastal communities, and the health of our oceans. It’s the right thing to do.

Ted Morton directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ efforts to establish policies to end overfishing; rebuild depleted fish populations; and promote a more comprehensive, ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management in U.S. federal waters.

Congress Threatening U.S. Fish Populations

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Christine Fletcher

Officer, Communications