Flagship Fisheries Management Bill Passes Natural Resources Committee

Huffman, Case, Peltola MSA Reauthorization Bill Includes Climate Crisis Consideration for the First Time

September 29, 2022

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act, led by Reps. Jared Huffman (CA-02), Ed Case (HI-01), and Mary Peltola (AK-At-Large), passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee. 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.

During his cross-country listening tour, Rep. Huffman heard from diverse groups of stakeholders across the fishing industry and scientific community that the overarching fisheries law needs major updates, particularly in light of climate change. These findings are underscored by recommendations from a new Government Accountability Office report that recommends federal fisheries managers better utilize climate data to increase the climate resilience of our nation’s fisheries.

Click here to watch a recording of Rep. Huffman’s remarks. A recording of the markup can be found here.

“I started this effort over three years ago because as a coastal California Representative, I know how important the Magnuson Act is to fishing communities and fishing-related industries. But conversations around Magnuson reauthorization, like so many things in this place, had [been] bogged down in toxic, partisan posturing. MSA had become just another proxy for all of these partisan fights that some people believe we have to always have around here. I wanted to reset the tone, and I wanted to refocus this important conversation on policy and science,” said Rep. Huffman. “I’m a firm believer that good process leads to good policy, and so we embarked on a nation-wide listening session, interrupted by the pandemic – but not stopped. We continued to push through. We got extensive, written feedback from all over the country. Writing and editing this bill, in fact, has been so transparent and stakeholder-driven, that I can’t think of another bill that has had such a robust and transparent and inclusive process.”

“This legislation before us today institutes the reforms needed to block questionable actions by our councils, provide enhanced oversight, and rebuild public trust. It revisits the council appointment processes to ensure that council members represent not only the commercial fishing industry but also recreational fishers, subsistence fishers, scientists, conservationists, our indigenous communities, and in fact all who legitimately claim and want to make our fisheries better. And finally, today’s bill clarifies the roll of the councils in influencing state, congressional, and executive action and institutes other good governance policies to strengthen how our councils are run,” said Rep Case.” 

“It’s been 16 years since the last full reauthorization. We’ve learned a lot in that time. We’ve seen what needs fixing, what can be made better, and how, regardless of our political battles, the climate and the oceans are changing. Nothing is more important to me as a member of Congress than to protect the fisheries and sea life that are crucial to Alaskan survival,” said Peltola. “I’m talking with Alaskans to ensure I understand all the issues and pitfalls, reviewing Congressman Young’s tireless efforts to improve the law, still thinking, drafting, and redrafting ideas to discuss with my colleagues as this bill moves through the process. I look forward to all of the good things we can accomplish.”

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 comments from dozens of members of the public in person and online.

There has been a broad and diverse number of groups supporting and engaging in the development of this legislation, including Alaska Fishing Communities, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Aleut Community of Saint Paul, Aleut Community of St. Paul Island, Aleutians East Borough, American Saltwater Guides Association, Association of Village Council Presidents, Bering Sea Elders Group, Cape Cod, Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, City of Saint Paul, EarthJustice, Fly Fishing Climate Alliance, Halibut Association of North America

Kawerak, Inc, Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Lake and Peninsula Borough, Marine Fish Conservation Network, National Audubon Society, Native Village of Afognak, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, The Ocean Project, Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association, Salmon Habitat Information Program, SalmonState, Sitka Salmon Shares, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Under Sixty Cod Harvesters, and Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

What Supporters are Saying

“A precautionary, science-based management approach that prioritizes the long-term health of our fisheries resources is the best insurance policy against the uncertain impacts of climate change,” said Willy Goldsmith, Executive Director of the American Saltwater Guides Association. “By enhancing protections for habitat and forage fish, tightening requirements for rebuilding stocks, and better integrating climate change considerations into management, the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act will help rebuild and sustain abundant stocks that drive the recreational fishing economy. The bill's emphasis on improving recreational fishery data, meanwhile, will ensure that management decisions are based on the best available information from our sector. We are grateful to Congressman Huffman for his continued commitment to strengthening the Magnuson-Stevens Act in a manner that will bolster recreational fishing opportunities in a changing ocean.”

“As a united voice for community-based commercial fishermen, the Fishing Communities Coalition thanks the Chairman for strengthening our nation’s premier fishery management law to better support community-based fishermen while improving science, accountability, and climate resiliency. We are confident that together, we can create national policies that deliver sustainable seafood to America, support healthier marine resources, and invest in the opportunity our fishing communities represent for this and future generations,” said Ben Martens, founding member of the Fishing Communities Coalition and Executive Director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.

“The Magnuson-Stevens Act has shown us that putting long-term fisheries sustainability first works. Representatives Huffman and Case’s Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act sets the bar for a reauthorization that would build on the MSA’s successes, plus recharge it to tackle challenges both old, like chronic overfishing, and new, like climate change and the havoc it is wreaking on marine ecosystems. Our prized marine fisheries will get the climate-ready management approaches they need with this legislation, and we hope to see it advance this Congress,” said Molly Masterton, U.S. Fisheries Director, Natural Resources Defense Council.

“The U.S. has some of the best managed fisheries in the world. Thanks to our science-based approach, we’ve reduced overfishing and rebuilt many once-depleted stocks. But climate change is disrupting those advances and threatening to undo the gains we’ve made. We must recognize the crisis at hand and begin managing our fisheries for the future. We must act now to adopt innovative tools and solutions – like electronic technologies, robust climate science, and management that promotes resilience – that are included in the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act. We applaud the forward-looking, inclusive approach taken by Representatives Huffman, Case, and the Committee on Natural Resources to develop this legislation. Now is the time to take the next step to ensuring the U.S. remains the world leader in sustainable fisheries management,” said Reggie Paros, Director of Federal Affairs, Fisheries and Ocean Policy, Environmental Defense Fund.

“Cape Cod’s small coastal communities play an out-sized role in our country’s success: the dayboat fishing businesses they support help feed a nation and are a constant reminder of the intrepid, entrepreneurial, dogged spirits this country was built on. Those essential businesses face unique and growing challenges. We are grateful Congressman Huffman knows and respects that our small-boat fisheries have such a big impact. He has worked to help address those challenges and strengthen the Magnuson Stevens Act by incorporating initiatives to foster climate change resilience, improve science and increase accountability,” said John Pappalardo, Chief Executive Officer of Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “We particularly want to acknowledge the Congressman’s willingness to listen and learn from those who build their lives on the water, holding a listening tour of ports across the country and inviting me to comment at a reauthorization hearing. The knowledge and input of small-boat fishermen was addressed in the bill and after my testimony a pivotal section protecting working waterfronts and local access was added.”

“We are excited to see this MSA bill that highlights climate impacts, aims to strengthen working waterfronts, and commits to bycatch reductions. Congresswoman Peltola is carrying Mr. Young’s legacy forward and we applaud her work," Linda Behnken, Executive Director, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

According to Marissa Wilson, Executive Director for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, "Fishing-dependent communities throughout the nation are experiencing unprecedented change and increased vulnerability under changing ocean conditions. An MSA bill which includes climate considerations in fisheries management is absolutely essential for food security."

In a joint statement from Earthjustice, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy, and Oceana said: “While the Magnuson-Stevens Act is one of the most important tools for conserving U.S. fisheries, it has not been updated since 2007 and does not currently mention climate change. The Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act takes major steps to ensure fisheries and coastal communities are resilient in the face of the climate crisis. From warming waters, to declining fish populations, our fisheries and the economies they sustain are up against significant threats to their future viability. This legislation provides new science-based tools to strengthen core conservation provisions and sustainable management so that communities can count on having resilient and abundant fisheries for years to come. We appreciate Reps. Huffman, Case, and Peltola’s strong leadership and commitment to prioritizing these much-needed improvements.”

“Today the House Natural Resources Committee moved forward an important piece of legislation for the health and productivity of U.S. ocean fisheries, a valuable natural resource for our nation’s food supply and economy,” said Robert C. Vandermark, Executive Director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network. “All of [the bill’s] fisheries management improvements will help us meet the current and future challenges facing our oceans and fisheries and will benefit the communities and people who depend on them. The Marine Fish Conservation Network thanks Representatives Jared Huffman, Ed Case, and Mary Sattler Peltola for leading the charge to pass these important changes to our federal fisheries law.”

“The Magnuson-Stevens Act is one of our nation’s most important tools for ensuring Alaska’s wild salmon runs and salmon-based lifestyles continue to thrive. As some of Alaska's most important salmon runs collapse and as fisheries across the state suffer declines and closures, these critical updates to the MSA are more urgent than ever,” said SalmonState Executive Director Tim Bristol. “We’re thrilled that Representatives Jared Huffman and Mary Peltola are already working together to prioritize The Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act, and we fully support and encourage the passage of this vital law."

"This bill highlights the importance of incorporating climate change into fisheries management and protecting fisheries habitat to ensure our fisheries remain productive and sustainable," said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association. "The bill also sends a clear message that current bycatch management is not meeting conservation and management goals. We appreciate Congressman Huffman's leadership and Congresswoman Peltola's responsiveness to the concerns of Alaskans."

"Our changing ocean requires a departure from status quo management. Congressman Huffman has done remarkable work soliciting input from fishermen, coast to coast, to inform this legislation," said Marissa Wilson, executive director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. "Sustained yields and equitable access to our common-property resources are challenging for fisheries managers to maintain, but this legislation helps us all work toward our common goal of stewarding healthy oceans for generations to come."

“We applaud the House Natural Resources Committee for moving forward on science-based legislation to conserve fish populations, protect other wildlife, sustain fishing communities, and properly steward our children’s inheritance,” said Bill Mott, executive director of The Ocean Project. “A hallmark of the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s success has been its history of bipartisanship; The Ocean Project looks forward to working with Rep. Jared Huffman, Rep. Ed Case, Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola and others on both sides of the aisle to ensure that our nation leads the world with strong, science-based fisheries conservation policies.”

Additional comments from supporters of the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act can be found here.

Additional Resources

Text of the bill can be found here.

A one-pager of the bill can be found here.

A section by section of the bill can be found here.