U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd, joined Alaskan Rep. Don Young, a Republican, to introduce a bill reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and Conservation Management Act on Thursday.
But the bill would make changes to the law that some environmentalists fear may result in taking more fish than is sustainable.
Among other things, the reauthorization would change how fishery councils determine fishery stock rebuilding timeframes, giving the public a greater role in the development of science and fishery management plans.
The fisheries legislation was first written by Young in 1975, according to Van Drew’s office, and was last reauthorized in 2006.
In a statement, Van Drew said H.R. 3697 “ensures that we have healthy fisheries, keep anglers in the water and keep fishermen fishing.”
But the nonoprofit group Oceana said Friday the new version undermines years of progress in ending overfishing and rebuilding fisheries.
“America is a fishing nation. We need strong laws to ensure we can protect the jobs and livelihoods that depend on this truly American way of life,” Oceana Campaign Director Whitney Webber said. “Unfortunately, the bill introduced yesterday ... would be catastrophic for the health of the oceans — and it could cost us some of our favorite seafood, too.”
The group said H.R. 3697 prioritizes short-term profits over the long-term health of our oceans.
Recreational and commercial fishing groups supported the legislation.
“The Garden State Seafood Association has been advocating for MSA reform since 2009,” said Greg DiDomenico, executive director of the Garden State Seafood Association, in the statement. “We sincerely hope that Congressman Van Drew will receive the support he deserves from all of the national recreational and commercial fishing groups.”
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There were also supportive comments from Wayne Reichle, president of Lund’s Fisheries in Lower Township and from Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.
“Mr. Young and Mr. Van Drew are well-versed on the current Magnuson-Stevens bill and how it penalizes fishermen while stocks are healthy,” Donofrio said.
Fisheries have been the lifeblood of the South Jersey economy and culture, Van Drew said, adding marine resources contribute more than $2.5 billion a year to the state’s economy.
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According to Van Drew’s office, the bill gives stakeholders a voice in the management process and requires the secretary of commerce to develop a plan for implementing cooperative research with fishermen and outside groups.