WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House moved forward Monday with a bill to add “flexibility” to a federal fisheries law despite a White House veto threat.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, was debated on the House floor and appeared likely to be approved. The bill would reauthorize the four-decade-old Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the top law regulating fishing in U.S. oceans, and give regional fisheries managers greater flexibility to shift catch totals as ocean conditions and science change.
Young said the bill was “written for fish and communities — not interest groups” and would ensure that “the needs of our fisheries resources are balanced with the needs of our fishermen and coastal communities.”
The bill would allow fisheries managers to consider the economic needs of fishing communities in setting annual catch limits, a provision Young called crucial to fishing communities from New England to the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska. The measure also would revise the fishing law to more closely reflect the current science, management techniques and knowledge of local fishermen and regional management councils, Young said.
President Barack Obama and other Democrats objected to the bill, saying it could lead to overfishing and roll back successful efforts to rebuild some stocks depleted by overfishing.
Obama said in a May 19 statement that 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 overfished fisheries by setting rebuilding targets that are not based on sound, credible science, and that unnecessarily extend the time to rebuild fisheries.”
Environmental groups also opposed the bill, saying it would roll back key provisions that have made the Magnuson-Stevens Act successful in preventing overfishing and restoring depleted fish populations.
“Any bill that undermines these conservation provisions or promotes greater uncertainty in fisheries management jeopardizes the livelihoods of fishermen, seafood business owners and coastal communities throughout the country,” said Robert Vandermark, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, a coalition of commercial and recreational fishing associations, regional and national conservation groups and marine science organizations.
The bill would amend and reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens law through 2019, at an annual spending level of nearly $400 million.
If approved, the measure would go to the Senate.
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