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Ocean Conservancy statement: New bill seeks to return America’s fisheries success to the bad old days

WASHINGTON, D.C. April 6, 2017 – Meredith Moore, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Fish Conservation program issued the following statement in reaction to “The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017” released by Congressmen Garret Graves (R-LA), Gene Green (D-TX), Daniel Webster (R-FL) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) today:

“This new bill would devastate fishing businesses and roll back science-based sustainable fisheries management in the United States. ‘The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017’ undermines the core foundations of America’s sustainable fisheries management. It will take us from smart, strategic management of valuable fish stocks that benefit stable fishing businesses on all our coasts to the bad days of unchecked overfishing and failing coastal communities.

“This bill removes sustainable catch limits for all but the worst-off stocks, rejects the use of the best available science as the foundation for management decisions, and threatens the progress we’ve made in rebuilding stocks.

“It also takes specific aim at the recreational for-hire fleets in the Gulf of Mexico, halting their progress towards better management. It caters to some private recreational fishing groups whose goals are out-of-step with conservation and management ethics of those interested in the economic stability of all users and the long-term health of this shared public resource.

“The sponsors may advertise this as a move to modernize recreational fishing but this bill just slaps on a new label on old, failed techniques that resulted in crashed stocks, rampant overfishing and business uncertainty. We urge Congress to send this bill back to where it belongs – history.”

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Meredith Moore is available for media interviews upon request.

NOTES TO EDITOR:

  • The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) requires science-based catch limits set at levels that prevent overfishing. Under the MSA, overfishing is at an all-time low and 41 fish stocks have been rebuilt to healthy levels.
  • The “Modernizing Recreation Fisheries Management Act of 2017” would gut the successful science-based annual catch limits (ACL) system by exempting fisheries that benefit from proven, science-based management:
    • ACLs would no longer be required for those stocks where fishing rates were being maintained below their target. This is nonsensical, as it means that ACLs would be removed for the very fisheries in which they are being used effectively.
    • ACLs would also be removed for fisheries in which overfishing is not occurring. This is extremely risky, as overfishing is prevented by the use of ACLs.
    • The bill would allow economics to be considered when setting ACLs, placing short-term economic gain above proven science and long-term economic and ecological success.
  • The bill undermines rebuilding provisions by weakening timelines for executing the plans necessary for returning stocks to healthy levels.
  • The bill also removes proven management techniques from the toolbox. This would halt progress being made by the small business charter for-hire and headboat sectors in the Gulf, where fishermen are currently developing new systems that would provide business stability and conservation benefits.

Ocean Conservancy is working with you to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit www.oceanconservancy.org, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.