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Congress Passes Landmark Fisheries Law
Significant changes approved for U.S. fisheries management system

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, led the effort to
update rules governing
the fishing industry. (Associated Press )


Alexandria, VA - December 11, 2006 - In a last minute effort, Congress approved the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Sustainable Fisheries Act on December 9, 2006. The Act, under development since early 2005, took until now to bring together all the different interests to reach a final bill. The Act makes a number of significant changes to the fisheries management system in the United States, including important advances for sportfishing. The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) 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; and provisions for buyouts of overcapitalized commercial fleets. The bill also contains extensive provisions on individual fishing quotas for commercial fleets and 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."

Saltwater anglers contribute over $31 billion annually to the United States economy.
Many communities in coastal states depend upon sportfishing to support their local economies. 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."
 

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The bill keeps intact the existing 10-year rebuilding timeframe and adds in new protections against overfishing. It requires fishery managers to base all quotas on the advice of scientists and advances new limitations on "cap-and-trade" fishing permit programs.
The new bill will:
• authorize the use of market-based limited access privilege programs;
• require establishment of a regionally-based registry for recreational fishermen;
• strengthen fisheries enforcement;
• authorize the Secretary to provide assistance to the Regional Fishery Management Councils for development of regional ecosystem pilot programs; and
• establishes Community Based Restoration Programs that utilize public-private partnerships to restore fishery and coastal habitat, in line with the President's Cooperative Conservation Agenda.
"We believe that this legislation is an important step for the United States to rebuild our nation's fisheries and will allow our fishers to utilize all of the tools that are available so their fishing businesses can operate safely and economically," said Bill Hogarth, director of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
 
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