Those who catch ocean fish, dine on the country’s marine bounty or simply appreciate the remarkable improvement in the state of America’s fisheries can thank the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. From its passage in 1976, the nation’s premier fisheries law has been remarkably free of the party politics so often exhibited these days. And that’s exactly why we need to be careful about some current initiatives to change it.

Over the years, the act, sometimes called the MSA, has become increasingly prescriptive in order to assure that fishery management is based on sound science and that catches of fish do not exceed the limits of an ecosystem’s productivity. While some regional controversies continue, it is telling that the last reauthorization of the act, in 2007, passed both houses of Congress overwhelmingly and was signed by then-President George W. Bush.

As we approach the transition to a new administration, however, a number of proposals have emerged to revise the law or change its administrative guidelines. Unfortunately, these would loosen effective protections that have been so successful in eliminating overfishing and rebuilding stocks.

For instance, one of these would increase the elapsed time between identifying overfishing and actually addressing the problem.

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