Brain Rothschild, Executive Director
Center for Sustainable Fisheries, New Bedford MA
The Magnuson-Stevens Act (“MSA” or “Act”) is up for reauthorization in 2014 and the opportunity to fix what is broken and improve what has not worked well should not be missed. At many governmental hearings and public meetings, it is said that all we need to improve the MSA is “flexibility.” Words like “flexibility” mean different things to different people, and such a cursory debate will not produce a functioning law for the complex issues that we face in this early part of the 21st Century.
While various interests may recommend different means of improvement, there is widespread agreement that in certain key areas, the MSA as interpreted and implemented falls short of our Nation’s needs. These key areas include an inability to develop accurate and timely science regarding both fish and people and to use that science to benefit both when and where it is needed. In this paper, which is intended as an introduction of a series examining in more detail suggested modifications to the MSA, major issues are laid out. Identification of the major issues are from working in the field of fisheries management science and from hearing over time the concerns of fishermen, fisheries scientists, community leaders, lawyers, and many others. This can be done by focusing on two main principles. First, the MSA’s language must be rewritten to strengthen the scientific basis for all conservation and management measures, including not only the biological (fishery related), but the much neglected socio-economic (people related) sciences. Second, balancing all ten National Standards to reflect an appropriate symbiotic focus, rather than a focus that has narrowed over the years to a preoccupation with only one concern: “overfishing.” Rewriting the National Standards to ensure these goals are consistent with the intent of the MSA and its predecessor legislation and has the potential to bring greater balance and scientific justification to fisheries management.
Mere reauthorization without thoughtful changes to achieve these goals will fail to achieve balance in fisheries management and endanger the sustainment of our Nation’s fisheries resources. Thoughtful change requires that the MSA be rewritten.