With Peltola on board, Dems revive fisheries law overhaul

A House Natural Resources panel will vote on a reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act next week.

September 15, 2022

House Democrats on Thursday revived a long-delayed overhaul of the nation’s primary fisheries law with one big change: Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat who was sworn in this week as Alaska’s newest member of Congress, is backing the effort.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife, had put his bill to reauthorize the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act on hold after the death of Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young, who died on March 18 at the age of 88.

With Young usually heavily involved in any debate on fisheries issues, Huffman said he wanted to delay a vote on the bill until Alaskans chose a successor (E&E Daily, April 5).

Huffman’s office said the panel has now scheduled a markup for next Wednesday.

Peltola addressed the issue in a brief interview as she boarded a train in the basement of the Capitol.

Asked what her priorities would be as a new member of the Natural Resources Committee, she said: “Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, for starters.”

When asked if that could be done quickly, she replied: “Fingers crossed.”

After winning a special election to complete Young’s term, Peltola will be on the ballot again in November.

Huffman is hoping she wins again, as he revels in a feud between the two Republicans who hope to unseat her, Sarah Palin and Nicholas Begich.

After Palin earlier this month urged Begich to withdraw and called him “a three-time loser,” Huffman said “the Palin-Begich cage fight” had begun.

“They truly hate each other. I’m popping some corn and looking forward to working with Mary Peltola!” he said on Twitter.

Huffman has been working on his proposed reauthorization for more than three years.

After conducting a two-year “listening tour” to collect ideas on possible changes, Huffman last year introduced H.R. 4690, the “Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act” (Greenwire, July 26, 2021).

In November of last year, the panel heard testimony on the legislation, along with a separate bill sponsored by Young, H.R. 59, the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.”

Young argued that his bill would better improve the law by giving fishermen and fishery managers more flexibility and stability (E&E Daily, Nov. 15, 2021).

If approved, Huffman’s bill would require NOAA to create plans for “climate ready fisheries” to manage the nation’s shifting stocks. It would mark the first time that climate change received a mention in the federal fishing law, which Congress last reauthorized in 2006.

By:  Rob Hotakainen, Timothy Cama
Source: E&E News