Written by Leslie Taylor
WASHINGTON — A legislative proposal that could ease limits on fish catches in federal waters including the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic is drawing praise from fishermen who say current restrictions are hurting them economically.
But conservationists counter that rolling back the limits would threaten the fragile health of certain stocks just now rebounding.
A Tuesday hearing by the House Natural Resources Committee was the first on the issue since December, when the committee released the GOP legislative proposal that would reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
The act governs the nation’s fisheries and spells out how eight regional councils are allowed to manage fish populations in federal waters.
The GOP proposal would give those councils more flexibility in how they rebuild fisheries and set catch limits, a primary tool to prevent overfishing of certain species. Fishermen and key advocates, including Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, say the limits have been overused recently at a cost to their industry.
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