WASHINGTON, D.C.—First, I want to congratulate Senator Begich, the new Chairman of this subcommittee, Senator Snowe, the returning Ranking Member, and welcome all the new and returning members of this subcommittee. The Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and our oceans are in very good hands here.
Our oceans and coasts are sources of great resources and prosperity. The U.S. commercial seafood industry generates approximately $104 billion in sales and $45 billion in income each year. More than 1.5 million American jobs are tied to the commercial seafood industry.
But fishing is not just a commercial pursuit. It’s also an American recreational pastime and a way of life. In 2008 alone, Americans took more than 85 million saltwater fishing trips. Millions more taught their son or daughter how to cast a line and fish for the first time.
Simply put, we’ve depended on the sea for our survival, our economy, and our recreation.
This should and must continue.
But we know fishing stocks are down. They’ve been declining for years.
If future generations are to continue to enjoy the bounty of the sea, we must think beyond next month or next year—we must think about the next decade and the next century. We have to conserve and protect fish stocks now in order to ensure their survival tomorrow.
In 2006, Congress made changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act. These changes were aimed at ensuring the long-term viability of fish stocks.
At times, the debate over the bill was contentious. But the bill’s passage was a bipartisan success. The reauthorization provided a blueprint to increase data collection, end overfishing and restore and rebuild the fish stocks that so many Americans rely and depend on.
Now, I know the balance between stewardship and sustaining livelihoods is a delicate one. I realize that many who depend on our fisheries are worried about what the implementation of some of these new provisions will mean for them, especially in this time of economic uncertainty.
It is important that we listen to these concerns. The problem of overfishing did not happen overnight; its solution will not come tomorrow. It will take time, and we might have to make some adjustments along the way. That is why everyone must have a seat at the table. The only way we can solve this problem is together.
It’s clear that the changes we made to the Magnuson-Stevens Act are forcing us to confront issues that most have been unwilling or unable to address in the past. While this is not easy to do, it is critical that we do it. The survival of our nation’s fisheries and our way of life depend on it.
With that, I want to thank our witnesses for agreeing to be here today. I look forward to their testimony.