Rally helped steer course for change

Last year’s rally was significant. Some 3,000 commercial and recreational fishermen joined forces to register their dissatisfaction. And it garnered the bi-partisan support of 20 U.S. House and Senate members, state lawmakers and mayors.

That political support for commercial fishermen continues today. New England’s Congressional delegation is keeping NOAA’s feet to the fire regarding the hardships the sector system and catch share management have brought to the Northeast groundfish fishery.

Consequently, Congress is beginning to question NOAA’s zeal to bring catch share management to other U.S. fisheries. This week, the House voted to nix funding NOAA sought for establishing other catch share programs. The Senate hasn’t yet voted on the matter.

And Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) announced plans this week to convene a Senate Commerce Committee field hearing. The intent is to collect testimony that can be used to modify the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the nation’s federal fisheries law.

Making Magnuson a more flexible law was the Washington, D.C., rally’s main intent. It’s too soon to say whether the Senate hearing will bring meaningful changes. House and Senate bills proposed last year to revise the act have expired. But it’s fair to say last year’s rally has proved to be a catalyst in the battle to bring change to U.S. fisheries management.

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