Fishing law needs to be more climate responsive, legislation moving forward

November 19, 2021

It’s no secret: climate-change impacts of warming water, coastal erosion, habitat degradation, low oxygen and acidification are changing how we fish and how fish should be managed.

One has to wonder: what happens when the water warms to the point that even the warm-water fish that have moved into our area like black sea bass, scup and summer flounder leave to go further north to cooler water? Our federal fishing law is not equipped to handle these impacts.

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, chaired by Representative Jared Huffman (CA-02), examined the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act, authored by Reps. Huffman and Ed Case (HI-01). The legislation aims to update and reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the primary law governing federal fisheries management and conservation that has made the U.S. a global leader in sustainable fisheries.

“America is truly a leader in sustainable fisheries management, but the MSA hasn’t been reauthorized in over a decade. And while it’s an important law that has stood the test of time, it needs some updates, particularly concerning the impacts of climate change,” said Rep. Huffman. “Through our uniquely inclusive, transparent process, Rep. Case and I were able to create an MSA reauthorization bill that meets the challenges of the climate crisis and puts the focus back on the needs of fishing communities. From the listening sessions to taking comments, we have genuinely heard from stakeholders all over the board; I’m excited that we were able to take the bill one step further today with this hearing.”

In an effort to include as many opinions and viewpoints as possible, Reps. Huffman and Case held eight listening sessions and covered seven management regions on their nationwide fisheries listening tour. They heard from 80 different experts and stakeholders, in addition to public comments from dozens of members of the public in person and online.

“The Fisheries for the Future Act continues this progress by offering comprehensive updates to address current challenges, strengthen sustainable management approaches, and prepare our fisheries for the impacts of climate change,” Ms. Meredith Moore, Director of the Fish Conservation Program, Ocean Conservancy stated in her written testimony at the hearing. “The proposed changes to the MSA contained in the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act would provide a path to address the impacts of climate change on our fisheries and prepare for the changes ahead in the near- and long-term. These changes to the law are needed because every part of the conservation and management of fisheries — the research and survey process, stock assessments, management decisions and fishing practices — will be affected by climate change”

“With the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act, Chairman Jared Huffman and Rep. Ed Case have given Congress a good starting point for ensuring that our fisheries management system continues to support American livelihoods and coastal economies, and is ready to meet the challenges of the future — including for the first time addressing the effects of climate change on U.S. ocean fisheries by incorporating climate science and adaptation strategies into management decisions.” said Robert Vandermark, Executive Director of Marine Fish Conservation Network, in a comment after the hearing.

By:  Dave Monti
Source: The Sun Chronicle