This past Tuesday, the draft bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act was released by the U.S. House. The Magnuson-Stevens Act is a big deal because this is the law that lays out how fisheries management works in the United States. This time, a number of changes have been proposed by Representative Doc Hastings, some of which could fundamentally change fisheries management and fisheries science in U.S. waters. The proposed changes immediately became controversial, garnering overwhelming support from witnesses to the House Natural Resources Committee hearing of the bill (witnesses included representatives from the recreational and commercial fishing industries as well as the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council) while the Pew Charitable Trust strongly opposed the bill, calling it the “Empty Oceans Act” (translated into GIFs by Upwell for your viewing pleasure).
How might the Hastings bill affect your favorite marine species (both in the water and on your dinner plate)? Read on to see the good, bad, and ugly aspects of these proposed changes, at least according to this particular fisheries scientist.
Earlier this month, NOAA provided a list of “pirate fishing” countries to Congress. This report identifies Portugal, Italy, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama as nations whose vessels engage in “illegal, unreported, unregulated” fishing.
Russell Smith, NOAA deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries, explains why this so-called pirate fishing is such a big deal:
“Illegal fishing must be stopped as it subjects our fishermen to unfair competition and undermines efforts to sustainably manage the valuable fish stocks around the world that so many communities depend on for food and jobs.”
The Pew Charitable trusts reports that an estimated 20% of all fish removed from the oceans are fished illegally. NOAA claims that this results in an annual loss of $23 billion to legal fisheries worldwide. Specifically, the six violator countries listed here are guilty of having:
“fishing vessels that did not comply with measures agreed to under various international fishery management organizations, such as closed fishing seasons, vessel registry lists, and a ban on the use of driftnets. Other violations included illegal gear modifications, fishing without authorization, and possession of undersized bluefin tuna.”