Following a yearlong tour and eight listening sessions at fishing ports on every coast of the country, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) introduced a draft reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act with Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) on Friday, Dec. 18.

The Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act was enacted in 1976 and last reauthorized in 2006.

The new draft leads with consideration for the effects of climate change on wild fisheries, but also includes:

  • A timeline for the management of federal fishery disaster declarations and disbursal of funds;
  • A grant program for working waterfronts;
  • Reinstitution of the National Seafood Council to promote U.S. seafood products;
  • Revision of Saltonstall-Kennedy program to return funds to their original purpose;
  • Removes limitations on Pacific council tribal members, including term limits.

“This draft includes important and timely updates to the MSA as well as provisions to strengthen communities and support those whose lives and livelihoods depend on healthy oceans and fisheries,” said Reps. Huffman and Case in a statement on the draft. “With the growing impacts of climate change, difficulties due to the ongoing pandemic, and rapidly evolving needs in fisheries management and science, amending and reauthorizing the MSA remains a top priority. We’re looking forward to the next phase of this process and receiving constructive commentary to inform and shape the bill’s introduction next year.”

The requirements for councils to include climate science in fishery management are wide-ranging.

"Environmental changes associated with climate change, including changes in water temperature, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation, are rapidly altering the abundance, productivity, and distribution of fish and are affecting commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries," the draft reads.

The climate-science section also emphasizes "the social and economic needs of the States" and the effects on harvesters; requires the application of cooperative research and management; and would require council members to be trained in climate science.

The reauthorization attempts to address biomass migration by requiring regional councils to "describe and identify the current range and distribution of, and fishing patterns on, fish stocks managed under the plan, including areas outside the jurisdiction of the Council having authority to issue the plan, and for fish stocks whose distribution crosses management boundaries, describe the measures used for coordination with other relevant management bodies for the conservation and management of the fish stock."

It would also implement a management-based task force to address the shift of stocks, review petitions for stock status changes and recommend "allocation and distribution of fishing privileges within the fishery."

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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