Main U.S. Fisheries Law on Track for Overdue Improvements

PEW Charitable Trusts

Buried in the unprecedented news cycle of the past month was a story that could deeply affect conservation in U.S. ocean waters: In December, Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Ed Case (D-HI), released draft legislation for the next reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the bedrock law governing management of our country’s marine fisheries. The draft is available for public comment, which could lead to changes before it is introduced as a bill.

The MSA was enacted in 1976 to phase out foreign fishing activity in U.S. waters and encourage the expansion of the American fishing industry. Updates to the law in 1996 and 2007, both with bipartisan support, included needed conservation provisions, such as measures to rebuild overfished populations on science-based timelines and prevent overfishing through the setting of annual catch limits.

Over the years, many stakeholders, including The Pew Charitable Trusts, advocated for conservation requirements that eventually became part of the law. These provisions, implemented with support from commercial and recreational fishermen, have proved successful. For instance, since 2000, nearly 40 fish species have been rebuilt from low population levels—and have stayed near or above the minimum numbers that scientists said are needed for the stocks to remain productive.

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