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Congressman seeks flexibility for fisheries management

July 13, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A revision of a federal law sponsored by a congressman from Alaska seeks to add flexibility to fisheries management.

The U.S. House on Wednesday passed the revision to the Magnuson Stevens Act, the 1976 law that prevents foreign fleets from fishing off U.S. shores and established regional management councils to rebuild fish stocks and ensure sustainable harvests, Alaska Public Media reported . The bill goes before the Senate next.

Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young sponsored the original bill and the revision. His latest bill aims to build upon the idea that fisheries management should be based on sound science, he said.

“That same goal is there but times evolve,” Young said. “Technology improved and we think it’s time the councils that are doing their jobs have a little more flexibility.”

The councils need flexibility because they know their fisheries better than legislators, he said. For example, the law’s 10-year deadline for stock rebuilding programs may not always be needed. If the fish return quicker, they can be harvested at a sustainable level under the new measure.

“Under the present law, which I wrote, they can’t do that,” Young said. “Otherwise we lose years and management of the fish for a period of time.”

Fisheries management needs to rely on science now more than ever, said Linda Behnken, director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

“As the oceans change right now, with warming oceans (and) ocean acidification, we can’t assume that fish have the resilience that we had thought they had in the past,” Behnken said. “We need to be particularly cautious.”

But straying from the principles in the Magnuson Stevens Act might not be the right approached, she said.

“A fish that’s dead is a fish that’s dead, no matter who caught it,” Behnken said. “So all sectors need to be held to annual catch limits if we’re to assure a health future for our fisheries.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman has led opposition to the revision, saying it would open the door to overfishing.


Information from: KSKA-FM, http://www.kska.org

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