The Pew Environment Group today joined 80 congressional leaders, hundreds of scientists and environmental and fishing organizations, and nearly 200,000 members of the general public in urging the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to rewrite its proposed fisheries rule that would undercut the nation's bedrock environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Approximately 200,000 individuals filed comments urging the Administration to start over and draft a new proposal with more conservation measures. Recognizing that healthy fisheries require healthy ocean ecosystems, the public comments support the need for a strong NEPA rule to protect America's marine fisheries.
“Our oceans are under assault from global warming, pollution and industrial-scale fishing, yet NMFS has proposed weakening the one law that protects entire ecosystems,” said Lee Crockett, director of federal fisheries policy for the Pew Environment Group. “This NEPA proposal isn't just bad for our oceans, it's also bad for the fishermen who depend on them for their livelihood.”
As written this proposal vests too much authority in the fishery management councils while limiting the public's ability to participate in the environmental review process. It also provides too little guidance on how NEPA can be used to evaluate and minimize fishing's impacts on marine ecosystems.
A landmark study published in the journal Science on November 3, 2006, by an international group of ecologists and economists, concluded that if we do not protect our ocean ecosystems, commercial fishing will not survive past the middle of this century.
Eighty members of Congress, including five House committee chairs, signed letters to NMFS calling on the Administration to craft a proposal that protects, rather than threatens ocean ecosystems. In addition, 79 leading scientists and 160 environmental organizations and commercial and recreational fishing associations signed a similar letter, also urging NMFS to protect the nation's ocean environment. To read the letters, go to www.endoverfishing.org.
“NEPA has played an important role in protecting critical habitats for ocean fish," continued Crockett. “To cripple the use of this fundamental law would be a huge step backward for ocean conservation and U.S. fishermen. If NEPA is undermined, fishermen will suffer yet another blow to their ability to make a living."
The National Marine Fisheries Service published its proposed rule on May 14, 2008, in the Federal Register. The 90-day public comment period closes today, August 12.
The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organization headquartered in the United States that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improving public policy, informing the public and stimulating civic life. For more information, go to www.pewenvironment.org.