Photo: Lyf getting personal with a salmon
I don’t want to leave my kids with less; I want to give my kids the same opportunities as I have to enjoy nature, fishing, and a healthy environment to live in. The earth is a precious place. All we have to do is protect it, and it will continue to provide endless, replenishable resources.
We thought we had seen it all this year when national monuments were taken away, trade wars were initiated, and science research funding was nearly cut. But now the House of Representatives has passed a potentially dangerous fisheries bill. This bill threatens our marine fish stocks and reduces accountability of the anglers, fishermen and businesses involved.
On July 11th, the House of Representatives narrowly passed (222-193) HR 200 introduced by Don Young (R-AK). This bill threatens the health and abundance of marine fish and seeks to amend and reauthorize our national fisheries management law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA).
I was only a twinkle in my parents’ eyes when this national resource management law was adopted over 40 years ago with bipartisan support. It has been reauthorized with bipartisan support almost every 10 years since then. After the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act amended the MSA, the law created a strong conservation foundation for fisheries management. HR 200 – which has growing bipartisan opposition – compromises this foundation by gutting key conservation provisions. The bill proposes relaxing the requirements on setting science-based annual catch limits for some fisheries. These science-based mandates ensure we don’t take fish faster then they can reproduce, which makes sense doesn’t it? HR 200 would allow fisheries managers to delay the rebuilding of overfished or depleted fish stocks instead of setting firm deadlines in rebuilding plans.
Our coastal communities depend on healthy oceans and abundant fish populations. Thriving and healthy fish stocks are the foundation of an everlasting population of our last wild-harvested resource. Since 2000 NOAA has reported that 44 commercial and recreational fish stocks have been rebuilt to healthy population levels. The MSA has adopted new technology and fundamentally evolved over the last 40 years, including taking steps toward adopting ecosystem-based management. This approach manages the ecosystem as a whole, instead of just managing single species. It is scientifically proven that the interactions between species are essential to maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems. The ocean is an amazing place, isn’t it?
In order to support coastal communities, we need legislation and fisheries policy that is designed to help communities thrive. It’s not only important to have fish in the water, it’s also important to have a framework in place to help the small local fishermen succeed. They need affordable access to permits, fuel, bait, and ice. If all these components are in place, and they catch fish, then they need a winch or lift to offload the fish from the boat. These needs seem simple and straightforward, but many working waterfronts have none or only some of these components, making it difficult for a small boat fisherman to succeed.
I look forward to working with our Senators to ensure that MSA reauthorization builds upon the successes of the current law, evolves to adapt to current and future environmental conditions, and also incorporates new ideas and technology that will better help us manage our precious resource for our kids and grandkids to enjoy in their lifetimes.