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NOAA HAILS CONGRESSIONAL PASSAGE OF FISHERIES BILL

NOAA image of recreational fishing in Surf, Calif.Dec. 19, 2006 NOAA is hailing the passage by Congress of a bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. This final step was years in the making, with much debate and compromise between the House, Senate the administration, conservation groups and fishing industries. Some doubted it would happen in this session of Congress. However, in the final hours before recessing until January, Congress surprised everyone and approved a bill that pleased fishery stakeholders that usually have disparate points of view. (Click NOAA image for larger view of recreational fishing in Surf, Calif. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Staff at the NOAA Fisheries Service worked tirelessly throughout the process to guide the bill, advise the Congress, inform the public and ultimately to secure passage of this important legislation.

"All of us at the Department of Commerce and the NOAA Fisheries Service are pleased with the tremendous support for the bill from our constituents," said Bill Hogarth, director of the NOAA Fisheries Service. "Along with commercial and recreational fishing groups and environmental organizations, we have found common ground in our shared goal to secure strong fishing industries and healthy marine ecosystems, and this legislation will help us achieve that goal."

Hogarth said the new and welcome mandates give NOAA and the eight regional fishery management councils stronger authorities, which will help them to be better stewards of America's ocean resources. All the major components of the bill also were included in the administration draft, sent to Congress last year for consideration.

Namely, NOAA is pleased that the bill will allow the government to end overfishing and to manage more fisheries with market-based programs, through individual quota shares. Both goals are key elements of the President's Ocean Action Plan, along with the development of a national registry of recreational fishermen and a stronger emphasis on ecosystem-based fisheries management. Hogarth noted that market-based management for certain key fisheries will allow fishermen to manage their operations for greater profit and safety.

Central to the Ocean Action Plan and the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization bill is a greater use of science in the fishery management process. Under the new law, fishing limits are required to be set within the range of scientific recommendations. Currently, most fishery managers abide by this principle, but it isn't always the case.

Hogarth's team is now positioning itself to implement the new mandates in the bill, assuming it is signed by the President. Policy analysts are studying the new provisions and will meet with the eight fishery management councils in January to kick off an implementation plan.

"We look forward to a busy and rewarding 2007 as we begin to implement these new provisions," Hogarth said. "While we've seen some progress in rebuilding the nation's fisheries, we feel that this bill gives us the legal tools we've needed to achieve even greater, more rapid success."

The Magnuson-Stevens Act was first enacted into law in 1976 to govern fishing activities in federal waters and was last amended in 1996. Most notably, the Magnuson-Stevens Act aided in the development of the domestic fishing industry by phasing out foreign fishing, and it created the regional fishery management council system to govern fishing activities and conservation efforts.

In 2007 NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. Starting with the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. The agency is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Fisheries Service

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

Media Contact:
Susan Buchanan, NOAA Fisheries Service, (301) 713-2370