Senate Approves Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

June 19, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate today approved by unanimous consent S. 2012, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2005.
The bill has received broad bipartisan support among the Members of the Senate Commerce Committee. The bill was introduced by Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Co-Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), with Senators Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) David Vitter (R-La.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) joining as cosponsors.  The Committee unanimously approved the bill on December 15, 2005.

This update of the Magnuson–Stevens Act (MSA), a bill which was originally enacted in 1976, retains key provisions of the Sustainable Fisheries Act (1996) while making adjustments to the legislation designed to improve national compliance with the Act. The bill reauthorizes the MSA from Fiscal Year 2006 through Fiscal Year 2012 and contains provisions that would help improve international fishery management and conservation compliance, with an emphasis on strengthening controls on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and ensuring other nations provide comparable protections to populations of living marine resources at risk from high seas fishing activities. Upon passage the Senate adopted a substitute amendment that made certain technical and conforming changes to the reported bill based on Members’ requests.

Highlights of the underlying bill are:

Preserves and Strengthens the Regional Fishery Management Councils

-- Establishes a Council training program open to both new and existing Council members designed to prepare members for complying with legal, scientific, economic, and conflict of interest requirements applicable to the fishery management process.

-- Strengthens and clarifies the MSA’s conflict of interest and recusal requirements.

-- Ensures that Council members disclose any financial arrangements with any other individuals who may have a financial interest in activity over which the Council has jurisdiction.

Mandates the Use of Allowable Catch Levels to Prevent Overfishing and Preserve Sustainable Harvest

-- Mandates that every fishery management plan contain an annual catch limit set at or below the optimum yield of the fishery, based on the best available scientific information.

-- Directs the Councils to consult with the Scientific and Statistical Committees (SSCs), or other appropriate scientific body, in setting catch limits.

-- Requires that harvests in excess of the annual catch limit be deducted from the limit for the following year or with in 3 years if data is not sufficient to determine the amount of the deduction in fishing.

Establishes National Guidelines for Limited Access Privilege Programs

-- Establishes national guidelines for Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPPs) for the harvesting of fish. The LAPPs include Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs), and are expanded to allow for allocation of harvesting privileges to fishing communities or regional fishery associations.

-- Only fisheries that have been operating under a limited access system would be eligible for consideration for management under a LAPP system. All LAPPs would be developed by the Councils and be subject to review by the Secretary of Commerce.

-- Does not provide for the establishment of a separate Processor Quota, but processors would be eligible to hold LAPPs to harvest fish, pursuant to current law, and any decision to allocate privileges to processors would be made in the Council’s normal allocation decision making process.

-- Provides for a five-year administrative review of each program’s compliance with the goals of the program and the MSA.

Improves the Uniformity of Decision Making for Fishery Management Plans and Aligns them with the NEPA Process

-- Authorizes the establishment of a Coordinating Committee comprised of Council Chairs, Vice Chairs, and Executive Directors as a forum to discuss issues relevant to all Councils.

-- Directs the Secretary, with public participation and in consultation with the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Regional Fishery Management Council, to develop one, uniform fishery management-specific environmental review process that conforms National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, analysis, and public input schedules to the timelines appropriate for fishery management decisions under MSA. The intent is to establish one consistent, timely, and predictable regulatory process for fishery management decisions.

Improves Data Collection for Better Management

-- Authorizes a national cooperative research and management program, which would be implemented on a regional basis to be developed and conducted through partnerships between federal and state managers, commercial and recreational fishing industry participants, and scientists.

-- Priority support would be given for efforts to improve stock assessments, assess bycatch, identify or conserve habitat areas, and collect socioeconomic data.

-- Provides a mechanism for improving data relating to recreational fisheries by establishing a new national program for the registration of marine recreational fishermen who fish in federal waters or for anadromous species.

-- Establishes a program dedicated to the development of technologies and methods to improve the ability of fishery participants to reduce bycatch and associated mortality. Directs the Secretary, in cooperation with the Councils and other interests, to create a regionally based Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program to develop technological devices and engineering techniques for minimizing bycatch, bycatch mortality, and post-release mortality. The provision includes an outreach mandate to encourage the adoption of new technologies, and also encourages the adoption of bycatch reduction incentives in fishery management plans, such as bycatch quotas. This provision also authorizes projects in cooperation with industry to improve information and technology to reduce seabird bycatch.

Increases the Role of Science in Decision Making

The bill strengthens the role of science in Council decision making through a number of provisions.

-- Specifies that the role of the SSCs is to provide their Councils with ongoing scientific advice needed for management decisions, which may include recommendations on establishing annual catch limits that shall not be exceeded.

-- The SSCs are expected to advise the Councils on a variety of other issues, including stock status and health, bycatch, habitat status, socio-economic impacts and sustainability of fishing practices.

-- Requires that SSC appointees be federal, state, academic, or independent experts with strong scientific or technical credentials and experience and authorizes stipends for non-government SSC members.

Strengthens U.S. Leadership in International Conservation and Management

IUU fishing, as well as expanding fleets and high bycatch levels, are threats to sustainable fisheries worldwide. The bill includes provisions to strengthen the ability of international fishery management organizations and the United States to ensure appropriate enforcement and compliance with conservation and management measures in high seas fisheries.

-- Requires the Secretary of Commerce to undertake activities to promote improved international compliance and monitoring of high seas fisheries, provide reports to Congress on progress in reducing IUU fishing, promoting international cooperation, and strengthening the ability of regional fishery management organizations to combat IUU and other harmful fishing practices.

-- Requires the Secretary of Commerce to define IUU, but specifies that the definition must include violations of quotas or other rules established under a international agreement, as well as overfishing or use of certain damaging gear in high seas areas with no international or regional conservation and management measures.

-- Allows for the use of measures authorized under the High Seas Driftnet Act to force compliance in cases where regional or international fishery management organizations are unable to stop IUU fishing or excessive bycatch.

Reauthorizes and Strengthens Two International Fishery Treaties

-- Contains implementing legislation for (1) the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention, a treaty to establish the first regional management regime for highly migratory species in the Central and Western Pacific, and (2) the Pacific Whiting Treaty, to establish an international and scientific and management regime for Pacific whiting.


The bill authorizes $328 million annually with a three percent annual increase for implementation of activities under the MSA. To address the growing need for additional funding for fisheries technology, science, and related information, the bill includes a new provision that would establish a new Fisheries Conservation and Management Fund. This Fund is intended to respond to the call by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy for dedicated funding for ocean-related needs, but establishes a fishery management-specific fund, patterned on the Wallop-Breaux Trust Fund “user pays, user benefits” model.  Allocations from the fund would be determined in consultation with the Councils, and would be for specific activities not funded under current law, including technology upgrades, cooperative research, seafood health benefits and risks, and sustainable seafood marketing and handling activities.  Funds to be deposited in the fund would include: any quota set-asides designated by a Council; general revenues; or donated funds.