The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, or MSA, is a landmark piece of environmental legislation that led to significant conservation gains in the Gulf of Mexico. While the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act get all the glory in the arena of environmental laws, the MSA (which has been in place since 1976) has worked steadfastly to ensure that Americans have continued access to fish and that marine ecosystems stay healthy and resilient. Here’s three fisheries success stories emanating from the Gulf, reminding us as the MSA turns 40 this year that it’s a keeper.
“No, thank you.” That’s what Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi said to a tool that would have empowered them to create individual and specific regulations for private fisherman in state waters at theGulf of Mexico Fishery Management Counciltoday.
This plan, called “Regional Management,” would have delivered a real and meaningful chance for private recreational fishermen from throughout the five states to fish under regulatory conditions that cater directly to their local needs. Fishermen from each state need to fish at different times of year, with different techniques and different local knowledge, out of ports that range in character and culture from Naples, Florida to Venice, Louisiana to Brownsville, Texas.
We’re making a very big deal about very little fish on the U.S. West Coast—and we hope you’ll do the same! These little fish, called forage fish, are crucial to the overall health of the marine ecosystem of the Pacific Ocean. These fish are important for the survival of seabirds, marine mammals, and bigger fish like salmon, halibut and tuna.
Federal fishery managers are considering a proposed rule to protect seven groups of forage fish species in federal waters off the U.S. West Coast. This action would culminate a years-long process in which environmental organizations, fishery managers and ocean lovers have voiced support for safeguarding forage fish because of their importance to a healthy ocean.
Ocean change is happening, and all of us who love and rely on the ocean are recognizing how important that is for our future. Ocean Conservancy recently participated in the Our Ocean conference in Chile, where global leaders convened to advance solutions to changes and threats to our ocean like illegal fishing, marine plastic pollution, and ocean acidification. Scientists, too, have been focusing on these challenging problems and responses to them. It is clear that if we are to confront the consequences of a changing ocean, we will need more and better science to anticipate these changes and respond proactively to protect the ocean’s future and our own.
A successful fishing trip depends on more than just the number of fish in the sea. It is dependent upon a multitude of complicating factors including the weather conditions, your ability to catch fish and even lack of engine problems to name a few.
Like a fishing trip, sustainable management of our fisheries requires more than just counting the number of fish in the sea. A sustainable catch level requires an understanding of the environment they live in. Fish need suitable habitat to live, other fish to eat, and will eventually become prey for bigger fish, including humans. Furthermore, fish live in a dynamic, changing ocean. When fisheries managers consider these ‘complicating’ factors in the setting of sustainable catch levels, the process is called ecosystem-based fisheries management.
Another crucial U.S. fish stock is rebuilt, reinforcing the importance of a strong Magnuson-Stevens Act
Earlier this week federal managers of West Coast U.S. fish stocks found that canary rockfish is rebuilt. This is great news for fishermen, seafood consumers, and conservationists, as it means a healthy population that puts more fresh seafood on American plates and supports a stronger ocean ecosystem. Canary rockfish is important in its own right as a species, but this finding allows for increased fishing of other fish populations that swim alongside it – canary is common as bycatch, or non-targeted species that also get caught in fishing gear, and increased catch levels will enable greater fishing opportunities of other species.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council, the federal group that co-manages our nation’s fisheries off of Washington, Oregon, and California approved the analysis done by NOAA Fisheries today, starting what will most likely be a revision of catch limits, and an official update to the “Status of Stocks,” NOAA Fisheries’ official score-keeping tabulation of stocks nationally.
Last month, federal lawmakers signaled their concern for healthy coastal communities when six House Republicans and Democrats introduced a bill directing the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to assess the vulnerabilities of these communities to ocean acidification. The bill, entitled the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2015 (H.R. 2553) takes an important step in helping these impacted individuals understand what acidification means for them specifically, and what can be done to protect themselves and their marine resources such as fisheries.
Although ocean acidification has generally been associated with oyster, mussel and clam die-offs, coral reefs are also threatened, and scientists are increasingly finding that important fisheries such as king and Dungeness crab, and summer flounder, won’t fare well in an increasingly acidic world. Given the millions of livelihoods at stake, we applaud Representatives Chellie Pingree (ME-1) and Vern Buchanan (FL-16) who introduced the bill along with their cosponsors for using foresight in trying to get ahead of this issue, and protect the jobs and way of life for thousands of individuals and families.