The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the primary law governing off-shore fisheries in the United States. It was first passed in 1976, and has undergone a series of amendments strengthening the MSA's power to rebuild fish stocks and enforce sustainable, conservation-minded fisheries management.
The law is up for renewal this year, but re-authorization bill H.R. 1335 threatens to stagnate the process of revitalizing our fisheries, or even to undo past gains. H.R. 1335, which passed the House last fall, introduces a language of "flexibility" into the timeline for rebuilding fish stocks, which may make things easier on fishermen in the short term but is an incredibly risky strategy in the long run.
ALFA has joined forces with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and three other small-boat commercial fishing groups to form the Fishing Communities Coalition, an alliance advocating for a more robust Magnuson-Stevens Act that will take on the issues important to sustaining our nation’s fisheries for the future. The FCC is working to educate Congress on the importance of sustaining coastal economies by protecting healthy marine fisheries, and ALFA members traveled to D.C. this fall to assist with this effort.
FCC's aims include:
- Preventing overfishing and rebuilding overfished stocks.
- Reducing bycatch and protecting directed fisheries (Alaska’s halibut fishery, for example)
- Advancing electronic monitoring as an alternative to observers.
- Supporting local access to fisheries through permit banks, trusts and community fishery associations.
ALFA is also a member of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, which is a broad-based coalition of environmental groups, aquaria, commercial and recreational fishing organizations with a shared agenda of promoting healthy oceans, productive fisheries and community-based fishermen. Through both coalitions we are working to build partnerships with the slow foods/sustainable seafood movement and to engage restaurants, chefs and consumers in promoting sustainable fisheries and strong fishing communities. A Senate MSA bill is not expected until after the presidential elections, which gives fishermen time to build new champions in Congress. ALFA will continue to work with coalition partners and policy-makers to advocate for this important law. We hope to bring ALFA members to the New Orleans Slow Foods celebration, the Boston Seafood Show, and DC in March as part of this effort.
View this handout on the MSA reauthorization from the Marine Fish Conservation Network.
Banner image credit ASMI/Joshua Roper Photography