Washington Congressman out to weaken ocean protection
February 6, 2014
© Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace
Rep. Hastings Empty Oceans Act Is a Surefire Disaster for New Englands Ocean, Fisheries, and CommunitiesTomorrowmorning in the nations capital the House Natural Resources Committee will convene todeliberate a discussion draft of a bill to revise the Magnuson-Stevens Act(MSA). The MSA is designed to be revised every five years, and that time has come again. After oversight hearings by both the House and the Senate last year, Natural Resources Committee Chairman and Congressman from Washington Doc Hastings has made the first legislative effort to put pen to paper. My advice to the Chairman is to scrap his bill and start over. Simply put, the Hastings draft ignores the state of New Englands fisheries and the need to move modern fishery management forward. Instead of recognizingthe success of the MSA over time,as well as recentimprovements to the law to end overfishingand rebuild depleted fish populations, the Hastings draft bill drags fisheries management back into the dark ages, with a handful of attention grabbing measures which, if enacted, would take modern fisheries management to a permanent state of overfishing. Hastings Empty Oceans Act proposes to:
- Allow overfishing to continue by delaying rebuilding measures for as long as seven years. Once rebuilding measures for one targeted species finally starts, they could extend for decades with no meaningful deadline for completion.
- Allow fishery management councils to outright ignore recommendations from their own science and statistical committees in setting catch limits. Under this proposal the huge short-term economic pressure that the New England Fishery Management Council constantly suffers to increase catch limits on commercially targeted species from cod, to monkfish, to scallops, to sea herring would overwhelm the results of stock assessments, hard data, and science-based management.
- Exempt fisheries management from meaningful environmental review. Chairman Hastings has had a long-time goal of undercutting the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its provisions for environmental impact review of federal management. He also seems to have something against the involvement of citizens and other stakeholder groups. Responsible fisheries management and the publics interest do not benefit from reducing transparency and stakeholder involvement.
- Allow commercially driven fishery management councils to have control over the recovery of threatened and endangered ocean wildlife such as sea turtles.Hastings has had it out for the Endangered Species Act(ESA) since he was a freshman member of the House Endangered Species Reform Task Force in1995. This draft bill just became a vehicle for the Chairmans desire to undercut the ESA.
- Undercut other bedrock conservation laws, such as the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, as well as prohibit taxpayer-funded data from being used for New Englands regional ocean planning effort that has been underway for several years. With the success that Rhode Island and Massachusetts have had in developing state-based ocean plans, and the deep interest that all coastal states and many communities have in developing an ocean-based wind energy industry in New England, how does it make sense to restrict any information that would put fishermen and the fishing industry on the best possible footing in a regional ocean plan?