Friday, April 07, 2006

Why We Care About Federally Regulated Fisheries

This week, the reauthorization of the Magnusson-Stevens Act, the federal law governing ocean fisheries, comes before Congress. At stake for our region are 36 federally managed fish species.

Just last week, the Marine Fish Conservation Network issued a report on the status of our nation's fish stocks. The news is grim. Currently only 13% of federally-managed fish stocks are considered healthy. Of the 36 species managed in New England, only 10 are considered healthy. Many of these, including cod, haddock, flounder, herring, striped bass, and many others are dependent on Narragansett Bay and other local estuaries at various life stages. Save The Bay has been a member of this network since the 90's, and MFCN has done a great job of advocating conservation at the national level.

The federal fisheries act needs to be reauthorized. That is unanimous among commercial and recreational fishing communities. In Rhode Island, at least, fishermen appear to understand and value conservation as an investment in the future of the industry as well as the environment. The battered and heavily-regulated commercial fishing groups seem resigned to new stricter regulations and are adapting to stay in business. Recreational groups also seem to be more in tune with the need for tougher catch limits than in past years.

Still, there are interests out there seeking to insert riders into the act that would weaken existing laws. That just shouldn't fly. With river herring headed toward an endangered species listing and other stocks in severe decline, conservation is really the only option. -JT

1 comment:

  1. When folks (usually politically conservative folks) argue that the Endangered Species Act needs to be gutted because only six (or eight or 10 – pick a number) species have been delisted, I think to myself: that doesn’t prove anything – the ESA has been in place for only a relatively short time, there’s very little funding for endangered species recovery, and in any case, it doesn't address how many species have been saved from extinction by the ESA.

    Nevertheless a similar question occurs to me about the Magnusson-Stevens Act: If it’s so good, how come so many fish are doing so badly? And is the need for reauthorization really unanimous? Not one member of the recreational or commercial fishing communities dissents?

    This second point is obviously less important than the first: How do we know the Magnusson-Stevens Act is worth re-enacting if fewer than one in three federally managed fish stocks in the Northeast are not considered healthy?

    I'm not making a rhetorical point; I'm actually interested in the answer. Thanks.

    Tom Andersen, Sphere