PORTLAND, Maine — A plan to update federal fishing laws has sparked a debate among fishermen and conservationists about whether proposed changes will undo years of work to rebuild key fish populations.

U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, has proposed several changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act that he says will give fishery managers more flexibility in rebuilding fish stocks. He has said the changes will allow fishery managers to address the economic needs of fishermen.

But some fishermen and environmentalists said Young's proposal creates dangerous exemptions from catch limits that are designed to prevent overfishing. They point to a recent federal report that says several economically valuable East Coast fish stocks are rebounding and no longer subject to overfishing as evidence that the Magnuson-Stevens act is effective in its current form.

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