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Federal Legislation

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in United States federal waters. The Act was first enacted in 1976, amended in 1996, and reauthorized in 2006. Most notably, the Magnuson-Stevens Act aided in the development of the domestic fishing industry by phasing out foreign fishing. To manage the fisheries and promote conservation, the Act created eight regional fishery management councils. The 1996 amendments focused rebuilding overfished fisheries, protecting essential fish habitat, and reducing bycatch. The 1996 amendments also included authorization of $2 million towards fishermen's healthcare in New England that laid the foundation for the creation of the Fishing Partnership Health Plan.

Key Issues

There are two dominating areas where change is essential to promote a badly needed shift in paradigm towards more successful management of fisheries and oceans:

  • The goal of fisheries management must be made consistent with the scientific reality of natural ocean ecosystems. The current goal in the Magnuson Stevens Act of achieving Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) in every fish stock at the same time is impossible to reach because nature is more fluid and dynamic. This goal needs to be replaced in the Magnuson Stevens Act with a holistic concept that is consistent with the natural biology of fisheries ecosystems.
  • Collaboration among scientists and fishermen is the only way to develop an adequate scientific understanding upon which to build a system of managing ecosystems. The kind of collegial collaboration that is needed requires a change in the cultural perspective and the way we organize our research institutions and educational programs to train future scientists and fishermen. Fishermen and scientists need to learn new skills to collaborate successfully, and managers need to insist on scientific research methods that are based on sound collaborative and collegial practices. Integrating fishermen and fishing vessels into the ocean observing system will also be the most cost effective way to collect the richest data to support ecosystem research and management.

While there are many details to reforming fisheries management and promoting holistic management of ocean ecosystems, these two issues are fundamental to real progress. First must come investment in collaborative research among fishermen and scientists across the nation. The FISHER Institute has been established to promote this goal.

Details on the MFP’s perspective to integrate fisheries and fishing observations into comprehensive ocean management is described in our letters and testimony to the Massachusetts Legislature concerning development of first-in-the-nation legislation to create a comprehensive ocean management system in Massachusetts state waters. See State Legislation.

MFP Testimony on the Magnuson Stevens Act

April 25, 2006 – Testimony Before the Committee on Resources United States House of Representatives Hearing on the Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act

May 02, 2002 - Testimony of the MFP on the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act before the House subcommittee

April 10, 2000 - The MFP presented a 26-point consensus testimony to a U.S. Senate hearing on the Magnuson-Stevens Act


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