Ever since President Bush signed off on the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSRA) in 2007, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) has been loudly sounding the alarm with regard to diminishing angler access.
While touted by some groups as a big win for recreational fishermen in America at the time, RFA quickly warned that MSRA’s strict annual catch limits, accountability measures and arbitrary management timelines would eventually take their toll on the recreational fishing industry.
In an April 7, 2007 letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), RFA Executive Director Jim Donofrio warned that measures of the newly reauthorized law had the potential to negatively impact the recreational fishing sector without offering much in terms of conservation benefit or improvement to our domestic fisheries in return. “This is particularly worrisome with the issue of annual catch limits (ACL) and accounting measures (AM) contained within MSRA,” Donofrio said at the time.
Outspoken critics of the more restrictive version of MSRA passed by the Senate, RFA lobbied extensively to incorporate additional management flexibility into the law, leading in early 2007 to efforts by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) to introduce the the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act to try to bring much-needed flexibility to MSRA. The legislation picked up additional support in the Senate soon after as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced a Senate version of the bill.
Since the reauthorization of 2007, RFA’s public position is that ACL’s coupled with AM’s and a lack of flexibility with rebuilding timeframes would continue to negatively impact the recreational industry, and together with hundreds of grassroots organizations and businesses Donofrio’s RFA continues to press federal legislators in both the House and Senate on comprehensive reform of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to address unfair annual catch limits in the recreational sector, over burdensome deadlines, and damaging accountability measures which arbitrarily force anglers to give back quotas whenever random data deems it necessary.
“We’ve seen more and more piecemeal efforts to address certain aspects of Magnuson, but RFA will continue to lobby on behalf of comprehensive fisheries reform,” Donofrio said this week. “Our recreational fishing industry is being regulated out of existence, and all the Band-Aids in the box won’t save each of America’s coastal fishermen from the death of a thousand cuts.”
Donofrio said several coastal legislators have reacted positively to angler concerns regarding NMFS’ inability to keep fisheries open in the face of restrictive federal language, praising the support of Congressional representatives likes Jon Runyan (R-NJ), John Mica (R-FL), Walter Jones (D-NC) and others for spearheading individual reform efforts to address MSRA shortcomings.
“We need deadline flexibility, we need to get rid of the accountability measures based on flawed science, and we have to address the problems with annual catch limits in the recreational sector where rebuilt fish stocks are concerned,” he added. “Some say it’s a lot to ask, but we’re going to need it all if we want to save coastal jobs and keep our members fishing in the 21st Century.”
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