The Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the law that guides the management of federal fisheries, on Tuesday, February 23, at 2:30 p.m.
The hearing will examine the fishery law’s successes, challenges, and future on the 40th anniversary of its enactment into law. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is currently revising a cornerstone of MSA implementation, known as National Standard 1, that prevents overfishing. The hearing will focus on that rulemaking and if revisions to the MSA are necessary.
The Honorable Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee hearing
This hearing will take place in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
For reporters interested in reserving a seat, please contact the press gallery:
• Periodical Press Gallery – 202-224-0265
• Radio/Television Gallery – 202-224-6421
• Press Photographers Gallery – 202-224-6548
• Daily Press Gallery – 202-224-0241
Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid or service, including closed captioning service for the webcast hearing, should contact Stephanie Gamache at 202-224-5511 at least three business days in advance of the hearing date.
Senator Dan Sullivan
Good afternoon. The purpose of today’s hearing is to recognize the 40th Anniversary of the enactment of what is now known as the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), and to examine this law’s impacts on managing our nation’s fisheries—its successes and possible areas of improvement.
As I have mentioned at this Committee many times, Alaska’s fisheries are by far the largest in the nation, accounting for over 50% of total domestic landings and tens of thousands of jobs. In many communities, our fisheries are the backbone of their economy. Alaska is the superpower of seafood. But this wasn’t always the case.
Before President Ford signed the legislation on April 13, 1976, residents in many of Alaska’s coastal communities could see a wall of lights off their shores emanating from the large foreign ships who were catching Alaska’s fish and taking our economic potential back home with them.
The MSA has successfully Americanized our fisheries, and built the fishing industry into my state’s largest private employer.
Through the MSA’s guiding principles—the 10 national standards, as applied by the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils who manage the fisheries off America’s coasts in a science-based and open and transparent stakeholder driven process —the MSA has resulted in the world’s best managed fisheries, particularly in Alaska, where we have no overfished stocks resulting from fishing.
Nationally, the impacts have been similar. Today, the Councils and NMFS manage 469 stocks through 46 fishery management plans, and only a small fraction of these are impacted by overfishing—fewer than ever before. The value derived from harvesting these species is near an all-time high.
Maintaining economics without jeopardizing conservation is the great charge that Congress has assigned to NMFS and the Council’s, and it’s a requirement that can obviously be a strained balancing act.
But, we must ensure that our nation’s fishery management system supports a stable food supply, recreational opportunities, and plentiful fishing and processing jobs that provide for vibrant coastal communities.
Conservation and management must go hand-in-hand, and we cannot allow for a desire for preservation to replace a productive domestic seafood industry. Already today, under the law, the North Pacific and other Councils are managing with conservation in mind, considering habitat protections, ecosystem management, and time, area, and gear closures to protect other fisheries, forage fish, and protected species.
While some regions have better and more abundant science than others, and some Councils function more effectively than others, separating fish politics from science, and allowing those closest to the fisheries to make the decisions, rather than someone back in Washington D.C., is a true hallmark of the MSA
And it’s Congress’ job to provide the tools and resources to get this job done. The MSA has gone through two major reauthorizations—one in 1996 and another in 2006. And like anything else, from time-to-time, it may be appropriate and necessary for updates to respond to current conditions. Last year, the House of Representatives did just that.
Similarly, NMFS has proposed rules to update the National Standards Guidelines. But, the National Standards Guidelines are not law, and only serve as guidance to the Councils. It’s also worth mentioning that the NMFS updates track similar issues as what is proposed in the House bill.
At the same time, I have heard from Alaska’s fisherman that my role as a steward of the MSA should largely be that of a doctor practicing the mantra of “First, do no harm.” And that’s a great testament to the vision and hard-work of those that crafted the Act—including the dozens of Alaskans that camped out in the offices of Don Young and Ted Stevens back in the 70’s as they, and others like Congressman Gerry Studds of Massachusetts and Senator Warren Magnuson of Washington, crafted the law that would manage our nation’s fisheries for future generations.
And as Congressman Young is fond of saying, the Young-Studds Act has a much better ring to it that the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
With that, I want to thank our witness, Mr. Sam Rauch, the Deputy Assistant Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, for being here today and now recognize the Ranking Member for any opening statement that he may have.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Samuel D. Rauch IIIDeputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory ProgramsNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration