It’s been rough waters lately for conservationists trying to protect America’s most vulnerable fish stocks amid mounting evidence that many of the nation’s species are making a dramatic comeback.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to relax fishing restrictions. States want to wrest control of fishery management from federal authorities, especially red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. Even the Obama administration, often an ally to environmentalists, is proposing changes critics say would weaken efforts to prevent overfishing.

“We think that the conservation requirements are working and more can — and should — be done to actually improve fishery management from a comprehensive point of view,” said Ted Morton, director of U.S. Oceans for the Pew Charitable Trusts. “It is disappointing to have to defend what is working from efforts to weaken and undermine it.”

Morton is referring to a recent wave of legislative and policy proposals pushed by fishing interests, notably recreational anglers economically stung by the tighter rules, that environmentalists say threaten to undo nearly a decade of success under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and Conservation Management Act.

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