Disregarding a veto threat from President Barack Obama, the U.S. House of Representatives reauthorized the four-decade-old Magnuson-Stevens Act, the nation’s primary fishing law, on Monday, which sets the policy for fisheries all across the United States.
The legislation, H.R. 1335, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act, makes a number of improvements to the MSA in order to ensure a proper balance between the biological needs of fish stocks and the economic needs of fishermen and coastal communities, and includes provisions sponsored by Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne.
Specifically, Congressman Byrne’s provisions would repeal the inflexible quotas for the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery, extend state water boundaries for each Gulf state to nine nautical miles, and remove data collection and stock assessments from federal control.
“Tonight was a big win for red snapper fishermen in the Gulf and fishermen all across the country,” Byrne said in a news release Monday. “These provisions were designed to give the Gulf states control over the science and data collection as it relates to red snapper, and I believe that with better data and more flexibility for fisheries managers, we can get back to having a real red snapper season in the Gulf.”
The Alabama delegation joined Byrne in his support of the bill, with the exception of Rep. Robert Aderholt who did not vote, and Rep. Terri Sewell who voted no.
Fellow U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer also celebrated the passage of the fishing reforms, saying, “Fishing is important in Alabama, both for commerce and for recreation. This bill will provide for more opportunities for Alabamians to have a stronger voice in the process of deciding how our fisheries are managed by replacing the current one-size-fits-all approach to a state managed approach that requires state and local data in decision-making.”
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby reiterated the importance of the bill to Alabama.
“Fishing is not only a large recreational attraction in Alabama, it’s also an important facet of our state’s economy. The bill … works to increase transparency, empower local experts who have a greater knowledge of regional needs, give states more of a say in decisions affecting them and support job growth- all with no increase in federal spending. “
The measure now goes to the Senate, and is facing a veto threat from the White House should it pass. In a May 19 statement Obama said the House bill would “undermine the use of science-based actions to end and prevent overfishing” and would “interfere with the tremendous success achieved in rebuilding over-fished fisheries by setting rebuilding targets that are not based on sound, credible science, and that unnecessarily extend the time to rebuild fisheries.”
Byrne however, is optimistic.
“I started working on this issue as soon as I got to Washington last year, and this vote is a big step forward. I will now get to work with my Gulf Coast colleagues in the Senate, including Senators Shelby and Sessions, to keep this legislation moving.”