Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pew Environment Group, Ocean Conservation Coalition Urges Congress to Oppose Pallone Fisheries Legislation

/PRNewswire / -- The Pew Environment Group and 44 national, regional and state conservation groups today pressed congressional leaders to oppose "The Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2009," saying the legislation would allow overexploitation of vulnerable fish populations.

This bill is designed to weaken the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the nation's primary law governing management of U.S. ocean fish which was reauthorized in 2006. The proposed legislation would allow fishery management councils to ignore MSA requirements for rebuilding depleted fish populations to healthy levels in as short a time as possible, depending on the biology of the fish species.

In a letter sent today to Congress, Pew, along with 44 other conservation groups, warns that this legislation would thwart crucial MSA provisions by letting fishery managers put short-term economic benefits before long-term economic sustainability. The bill would also indefinitely delay the environmental and economic benefits of critical rebuilding actions.

"The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that depleted fish populations be rebuilt as quickly as biologically possible," said Lee Crockett, director of Federal Fisheries Policy at the Pew Environment Group. "But shortsightedness and political pressure has kept too many fish populations from reaching healthy, sustainable levels. If this bill were enacted, it would guarantee that many of our coastal fisheries would not be restored in our lifetime."

The "Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2009" would:

* Threaten recovery, long-term sustainability and forego economic benefits of healthy, rebuilt fish populations;

* Abandon congressional intent requiring federal fishery managers to rebuild depleted fish populations as quickly as possible;

* Allow federal fishery managers to avoid making tough decisions by claiming that the health of depleted fish populations is beyond their control; and

* Allow federal fishery managers to continue overexploiting a vulnerable fish population, if it is caught with other populations of healthier fish.

"The current fishery laws provide adequate flexibility to address ecological and socioeconomic concerns," said Crockett. "Congress should give the new reforms in the Magnuson-Stevens Act a chance to work before it starts making changes."

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