U.S. Senate Passes Marine Fisheries Bill

News Release Jodi Stemler June 19, 2006 703-915-1386 For Immediate Release [email protected] WASHINGTON - Senator Ted Stevens today successfully shepherded through the Senate legislation to reauthorize the act that bears his name and is the nation’s primary marine fisheries law. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 2005, which will make many positive changes for marine fisheries conservation and recreational saltwater fishing, passed by unanimous consent. The final bill included several provisions promoted by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) Angling 4 Oceans Campaign, including improving the role of science in fisheries management, evaluating the economic impacts of all sectors when making allocation decisions, improving recreational fishing data by establishing a national registry of recreational anglers, and reducing bycatch through the development of new technologies. “The Senate moved improved marine fisheries policy one step closer to enactment by passing a strong Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization bill today,” stated Eric Schwaab of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Schwaab, who also co-chairs the TRCP’s Angling 4 Oceans Working Group, added, “Senators Stevens and Inouye and the other cosponsors of this bill should be commended for their commitment to developing legislation that in large part balances the concerns of a broad group of fishing and conservation interests. With this bill from the Senate, and hopefully one soon from the House, we are confident that remaining concerns with each bill will be resolved appropriately during conference.” While the bill passed by the Senate has many strong provisions to improve recreational saltwater fishing, concerns with assessing allocation penalties for overharvest of fisheries remain, particularly given the recognized need for data improvements. Current recreational fishing statistics are not sufficiently timely or accurate to immediately implement this provision fairly. Both House and Senate bills seek to improve recreational catch data. Negotiations with the House of Representatives once that body has passed its version of the reauthorization legislation will provide an important opportunity to ensure that an improved system for collecting recreational fishing data is put in place and supports fair implementation of these management proposals. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Angling 4 Oceans campaign has organized a diverse group of recreational fishing, conservation and industry organizations around four key “SALT” principles. These principles: Science must be used in marine fisheries conservation; Allocation of fisheries resources should be more equitable to recreational fishermen; Licensing saltwater anglers will improve data collection and increase funding; and Tackle used by fishermen should reduce bycatch and not damage habitat were all included in the final Senate package. “The inclusion of aspects of each of our SALT principles in the Senate bill is a testament to the ongoing joint efforts of the working group, and the interest Senator Stevens and this bill’s sponsors had in addressing the saltwater angling community’s priorities” noted Matthew B. Connolly, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. He continued, “There is still more work to be done in the House and ultimately in conference, but marine conservation and saltwater fishing is sure to improve if we are successful with enacting a bill this year that addresses these principles.” The Magnuson-Stevens Act was last updated in 1996 and is now five years overdue for reauthorization. Momentum for enacting new marine fisheries policy began in earnest when members of the Senate Commerce committee, led by Chairman Stevens and Ranking Minority Member Inouye, began a public dialogue and negotiation process. The process resulted in their bipartisan bill that has attracted support from a diverse group of constituents and the committee reported the bill on December 15, 2005. House Resources Committee Chairman has followed a similar course of negotiation in the House and his version of the bill is expected to reach the House floor in early summer. With a shortened legislative calendar due to the mid-term elections, the efforts of both the House and Senate are setting the stage for enactment of the Magnuson-Stevens Act this year. For additional information, go to: www.trcp.org/ch_marineconservation.aspx *** The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is a coalition of leading conservation organizations and individual grassroots partners, working together to conserve fish and wildlife and their habitat, increase funding for conservation and management, and expand access