Ocean View: Building on MSA for a Resilient Fisheries Future

Ocean View: Building on MSA for a Resilient Fisheries Future
Rob Kramer-1-28 Rob Kramer
Published On December 4, 2021
image description Reading Time 3 minutes

“Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act of 2021 recognizes that oceans are warming, fish are moving, and managers do not have the adequate tools to address the consequences.”

Few organizations involved in marine fisheries management in the United States can say that they have been there from the beginning. But that is indeed the case with Wild Oceans.

Wild Oceans was founded in 1973 in response to the drafting of the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976.  Wild Oceans (then NCMC) officers and directors engaged with scientists and managers and testified before Congressional committees. We brought the ethic of conservation-minded recreational fishermen to the table and advocated for many provisions that would eventually become part of the nation’s first law establishing a framework to manage domestic marine fisheries.

As it is now known, the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) has been amended a number of times since its original passage in 1976.  At each turn, we were there to provide our input. We helped shape this legislation not by razing and rebuilding the entire house as some advocated, but by making renovations based on modern fisheries science and proven management strategies.

During this evolution, our national investment in science-based management has yielded great gains.  We’ve reduced bycatch, made overfishing the exception, not the rule, and increased quotas on rebuilt stocks while protecting essential fish habitat.  As MSA turns 45, we are focused on maintaining these gains while building more resilient fisheries that support healthy ecosystems and fishing communities.

Legislation introduced this past July by Congressmen Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Ed Case (D-Honolulu) does just that by shifting us further away from traditional single-species management to make sure the needs of other wildlife and other fisheries are met.  Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act of 2021 would update, reauthorize and strengthen the MSA for the first time since 2006.  It recognizes that oceans are warming, fish are moving, and managers do not have the adequate tools to address the consequences.  However, as is the case with any legislative effort, it is imperative to remain engaged as it moves through Congress to ensure positive provisions are retained and detrimental language is not inserted. This is a tall task with a bill nearly 200 pages in length.  Wild Oceans priorities will focus on:

  • Incorporating climate science and associated adaptation strategies into management decisions;
  • Making sure that necessary checks are in place to prevent the development of new fisheries that could be harmful to existing fisheries;
  • Creating new tools and procedures for attending to shifting stocks;
  • Strengthening essential fish habitat protection; and,
  • Accounting for predator-prey relationships and addressing gaps in forage fish management.

By investing in science that supports ecosystem-based fishery management and giving managers the tools they need to act with precaution in the face of climate change, the Huffman-Case bill would help preserve the integrity of our ocean ecosystems and sustain fishing opportunities for future generations.

The above Ocean View editorial appears in the latest issue (Issue 166) of the Wild Oceans Horizon, our newsletter. Sign up to receive news and updates about our latest work to keep the oceans wild for the future of fishing!