National Policy

Special Edition – Fish Talk in the News – House Approves Controversial Fishing Bill

Photo credit: Joachim S. Mueller.

On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 1335, the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,” as a reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MSA). The 225-152 final House vote on the bill, authored by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), fell largely along party lines, as has majority of the reauthorization process. Only five House Democrats voted in favor, including New England Congressmen Keating (D-MA), Lynch (D-MA), Moulton (D-MA), and Courtney (D-CT).

Environmental groups and many Democrats remain in opposition to H.R. 1335 as it would weaken the nation’s fishery management system, jeopardize any future progress made in rebuilding stocks, and undermine decades of bipartisan conservation efforts. The Cape Cod Times quoted several of these concerns.

“There are measures that Congress should be working on, like focusing on climate change and its impact on fisheries, or the importance of better science and data collection. All these real world problems are going begging while this type of political posturing goes on,” said Peter Shelley, the interim president of the Conservation Law Foundation.

Claire Fitz-Gerald, a policy analyst for the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance was also quoted, “Magnuson has been a success that has successfully rebuilt fisheries across the country, and reauthorization is the opportunity to further strengthen, not weaken, it,” said Fitz-Gerald. “At the end of the day, fishermen need better than circling the drain in perpetuity. They need healthy fish stocks that fishermen can live off of.”

New England Commercial and recreational fishermen have also spoken out against H.R. 1335:

“If there were a ton of cod around and things looked better I might feel differently,” said Chatham commercial fisherman Greg Walinski, who understood the logic of sacrificing cod to get to plentiful fish stocks like haddock and pollock, but just didn’t think it was right. “To loosen that up and go down that road is just a disaster. You’re never seeing codfish come back.”

The Senate has yet to take up the bill, and the White House has already warned that it would veto H.R. 1335.


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