Keynote Address on Rewriting the Magnuson-Stevens Act at the 2013 Pacific Marine Expo, Seattle, Washington

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.

Brian Rothschild blogs for AFS and AIFRB on FishosophyWhile 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.

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Fishosophy: Overfished or Depleted?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

(William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II)

Contrary to what might have been true when Shakespeare had Juliet speak those words in the 1590s, how things are called is far from meaningless today. This is particularly so due to the increasingly pervasive and influential social media driven by sound bite journalism, text messages maxing out at 255 characters and Tweets at 140. When so much of contemporary communication and contemporary thought is dependent on so few words, those words, their exact meaning and their precise use have become critically important.
This is a photo of the totoaba or totuava (Totoaba macdonaldi) is a marine fish of the drum family (Sciaenidae) that is indigenous to the northern half of the Gulf of California
Thus it was with great relief that I saw that one of the amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson Act) offered by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings deals with one of the most prejudicial examples of misnaming that has Continue reading

Testimony on Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization

Testimony on Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization for the House Committee on Natural Resources oversight hearings on the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act
Ray Hilborn, Professor
School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences Box 355020
University of Washington

Ray Hilborn blogs for AFS and AIFRB for Fishosophy
Good morning and I want to thank the members and staff for the opportunity to address this committee. My name is Ray Hilborn, I am a Professor of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Washington. I have been studying fisheries management for over 40 years, both in the U.S. and in a number of other countries and international commissions. This has resulted in 250 peer reviewed journal articles, and several books including most recently “Overfishing: what everyone needs to know” published by Oxford University Press.

I am not representing any group, although I do receive research funding from a wide range of foundations, NGOs, and commercial and recreational interest groups, the National Science Foundation and NOAA.

I am not here to argue for specific changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, rather to provide background on our growing knowledge of how fish populations behave, and how U.S. fisheries are performing.

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