President Bush last week (Jan. 12) signed the Magnuson-Stevens
Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (HR 5946) into law.
The legislation received broad bipartisan support in Congress
and passed the House and Senate in December before Congress adjourned for the year.
"I thank President Bush for signing this legislation vital to
sustaining our nation's fisheries," said Senator Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the legislation's primary sponsor. "The techniques
in this measure have been used effectively to protect Alaska's fisheries. This bill extends Alaska's science-based practices to the rest of our country and will allow the development
of unique fishery management plans nationwide. Our next step is to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing practices
that threaten the world's oceans."
The legislation is an update of the original Magnuson–Stevens
Act (MSA), which was originally enacted in 1976, and retains key provisions of the Sustainable Fisheries Act (1996) while
making adjustments to the legislation designed to improve national compliance with the Act.
The bill reauthorizes the MSA from Fiscal Year 2007 through Fiscal
Year 2013 and contains provisions intended to help improve international fishery management and conservation compliance, with
an emphasis on strengthening controls on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and ensuring other nations provide
comparable protections to populations of living marine resources at risk from high seas fishing activities.
Highlights of the Magnuson-Stevens Act:
* Preserves and Strengthens the Regional Fishery Management Councils.
-- Establishes a Council training program open to both new and
existing Council members designed to prepare members for complying with legal, scientific, economic, and conflict of interest
requirements applicable to the fishery management process.
-- Strengthens and clarifies the MSA's conflict of interest and
-- Ensures that Council members and Scientific and Statistical
Committees (SSCs) disclose any financial arrangements with any other individuals who may have a financial interest in activity
over which the Council has jurisdiction.
* Mandates the Use of Allowable Catch Levels to Prevent Overfishing
and Preserve Sustainable Harvest
-- Mandates that every fishery management plan contain an annual
catch limit at a level such that overfishing does not occur in the fishery.
-- Directs the Councils to follow the recommendations of SCCs
in setting catch limits.
-- Requires that fishery management plans include measures to
ensure accountability for the overages of harvest levels.
* Establishes National Guidelines for Limited Access Privilege
-- Establishes national guidelines for Limited Access Privilege
Programs (LAPPs) for the harvesting of fish. The LAPPs include Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs) which are expanded to allow
for allocation of harvesting privileges to fishing communities or regional fishery associations.
-- Only fisheries that have been operating under a limited access
system would be eligible for consideration for management under a LAPP system. All LAPPs would be developed by the Councils
and be subject to review by the Secretary of Commerce.
-- Does not provide for the establishment of a separate Processor
Quota, but processors would be eligible to hold LAPPs to harvest fish, pursuant to current law, and any decision to allocate
privileges to processors would be made in the Council's normal allocation decision making process.
-- Provides for an initial five-year administrative review of
each program's compliance with the goals of the program and the MSA and a review at least every seven years after that.
* Improves the Uniformity of Decision Making for Fishery Management
Plans and Aligns them with the NEPA Process
-- Authorizes the establishment of a Coordinating Committee comprised
of Council Chairs, Vice Chairs, and Executive Directors as a forum to discuss issues relevant to all Councils.
-- Directs the Secretary, with public participation and in consultation
with the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Regional Fishery Management Councils, to develop one, uniform fishery
management-specific environmental review process that conforms National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, analysis,
and public input schedules to the timelines appropriate for fishery management decisions under MSA. The intent is to establish
one consistent, timely, and predictable regulatory process for fishery management decisions.
* Improves Data Collection for Better Management
-- Authorizes a national cooperative research and management program,
which would be implemented on a regional basis to be developed and conducted through partnerships between federal and state
managers, commercial and recreational fishing industry participants, and scientists.
-- Priority support would be given for efforts to improve stock
assessments, assess bycatch, identify or conserve habitat areas, and collect social and economic data.
-- Provides a mechanism for improving data relating to recreational
fisheries by establishing a new national program for the registration of marine recreational fishermen who fish in federal
waters or for anadromous species.
-- Establishes a regionally-based program dedicated to the development
of technologies and methods to improve the ability of fishery participants to reduce bycatch and associated mortality. The
provision includes an outreach mandate to encourage the adoption of new technologies, and also encourages the adoption of
bycatch reduction incentives in fishery management plans, such as bycatch quotas. This provision also authorizes projects
in cooperation with industry to improve information and technology to reduce and mitigate seabird interactions.
* Increases the Role of Science in Decision Making
The bill strengthens the role of science in Council decision making
through a number of provisions.
-- Specifies that the role of the SSCs is to provide their Councils
with ongoing scientific advice needed for management decisions, which includes recommendations on establishing annual catch
limits that shall not be exceeded.
-- The SSCs are expected to advise the Councils on a variety of
other issues, including stock status and health, acceptable biological catch, preventing overfishing, bycatch, achieving rebuilding
targets, habitat status, social and economic impacts and sustainability of fishing practices.
-- Requires that SSC appointees be federal, state, academic, or
independent experts with strong scientific or technical credentials and experience and authorizes stipends for non-government
* Strengthens U.S.
Leadership in International Conservation and Management
IUU fishing, as well as expanding fleets and high bycatch levels,
are threats to sustainable fisheries worldwide. The bill includes provisions to strengthen the ability of international fishery
management organizations and the United States
to ensure appropriate enforcement and compliance with conservation and management measures in high seas fisheries.
-- Requires the Secretary of Commerce to undertake activities
to promote improved international compliance and monitoring of high seas fisheries, provide reports to Congress on progress
in reducing IUU fishing, promoting international cooperation, and strengthening the ability of regional fishery management
organizations to combat IUU and other harmful fishing practices.
-- Requires the Secretary of Commerce to define IUU, but specifies
that the definition must include violations of quotas or other rules established under a international agreement, as well
as overfishing or use of certain damaging gear in high seas areas with no international or regional conservation and management
-- Allows for the use of measures authorized under the High Seas
Driftnet Act to force compliance in cases where regional or international fishery management organizations are unable to stop
IUU fishing or excessive bycatch.
The bill authorizes $338 million annually with a three percent
annual increase for implementation of activities under the MSA.
* Western Pacific Region
--The bill includes provisions crucial to the long-term sustainability
of tuna and other high seas stocks so important to Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, as well as a program to help
increase marine education and technical skills in the region.
-- The bill's strong negotiation, enforcement, and compliance
measures will help end illegal and wasteful fishing activities on the high seas, as well as improve the capacity of our international
fisheries organizations to manage them cooperatively.
--Provisions dealing with working with other countries to conserve
shared marine resources which will help level the playing field and reduce the
unfair conservation burdens on U.S. high
--The bill also contains long-awaited legislation to implement
the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention, a critical step in ending overfishing of bigeye and other tuna species
in the Pacific.
--The bill also contains provisions that that promote marine education,
training, and assistance opportunities for Western Pacific communities and underrepresented groups.
The full text of the bill can be found at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/magact/