Abstract: Fishery policy, guided by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA), originally focused on mandates to identify fisheries, encourage underdeveloped fisheries, and establish databases for socioeconomic variables. Since that time, new issues have emerged, including a recognition of the need to identify, measure, and respond to overfishing and to incorporate an ecological perspective in fishery management through increased attention to habitat. The MSFCMA was last reauthorized and extensively amended in 1996. Although the authorization of appropriations under the MSFCMA expired at the end of FY1999, the Act's requirements continue in force. At issue for Congress are the terms and conditions of any provisions designed to reauthorize and amend the Act to address the concerns of various interest groups.
To identify potential reauthorization issues, CRS queried commercial harvesters, recreational fishermen, fishery managers, fishery scientists, fish processors, fishery unions, and environmental organizations to identify matters that they would like to see discussed during a reauthorization debate. Identified issues include (1) whether to further specify the approaches to address bycatch and bycatch mortality; (2) how to define, manage, and protect unique habitats; (3) whether to legislate the designation of marine protected areas; (4) how to assure that necessary data are collected; (5) how to manage marine ecosystems; (6) how to assure that regional council decisions are fair and balanced; (7) how to implement and finance fishing capacity reduction programs; (8) whether to establish national standards for individual fishing quota management programs; and (9) whether to authorize user fees and other charges that could be used for conservation, management, and enforcement. Other prominent issues may include how to define fishing community, whether to revise the fishery management plan review process, and how best to manage highly migratory species. Because of the major changes that have occurred in marine fisheries since the MSFCMA originated in the mid-1970s, some suggest that the underlying management structure of U.S. fisheries should be reviewed to reassess whether fisheries should be managed at the regional or national level. In addition, both the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy have recommended major changes in U.S. fishery management policy.
Potential participants in the reauthorization debate anticipate extended negotiations on some of these issues and on concerns that have arisen as the 1996 MSFCMA amendments in the Sustainable Fisheries Act have been implemented. In the House, the Committee on Resources has jurisdiction over any MSFCMA reauthorization legislation. In the Senate, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has jurisdiction on this issue. Oversight field hearings have been held and MSFCMA reauthorization bills have been introduced. Most of the issues discussed in this report are not time-sensitive, and early attention to many of these issues is not anticipated. This report will be updated as this issue evolves.
Topics: Marine, Agriculture, Legislative