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Editorial March/April 2012

Flexibility, Better Science &

The Magnuson-Stevens Act

   I'm sure most of our readers have heard the buzz regarding the fight for flexibility in the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). Let me explain what flexibility is, why flexibility is needed in the MSA, and how the lack of flexibility has been closing fishery after fishery, and destroying fishing and marine industry jobs and businesses across the nation. I will also explain how this lack of flexibility is benefiting the environmental “business” community in their push for the control and profit they will enjoy if our marine resources are privatized and sold off to the highest bidder.
   The MSA legislation was adopted in 1976. It became the primary law governing marine fisheries management in federal waters. It created the eight regional fishery management councils and designated the 200 mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) keeping foreign trawlers from decimating our coastal gamefish and forage species. It truly was an asset to the American fishermen. In 2006, the MSA was reauthorized—enter the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) with their catch share planning and strategy.
   “Our oceans team was instrumental in crafting and passing the 2006 Magnuson-Stevens Act, which introduced a market approach to protecting our....” boasted the EDF on their web site. These comments have since been removed from their site. The reauthorization created hard deadlines to rebuild species determined to be “overfished,” increased use of management tools such as the catch share system of fishery management, and required NOAA to obtain better science to base their fishery management decisions, closures and regulations.
   With the help of the EDF’s influence in crafting the reauthorization, hard deadlines were set in the rebuilding process setting the stage for fishery closures that are occurring today nationwide. In essence, the 2006 reauthorization requires that if a fishery was not 100-percent rebuilt in a given length of time, it was to be closed to recreational and commercial fishermen completely until such time it was determined to be 100-percent rebuilt.
   In other words, if a fishery was 95-percent rebuilt, and displaying continual stock improvement throughout the rebuilding period, when the rebuilding time period was reached, the 2006 reauthorization of the MSA required the fishery to be closed immediately until it was deemed, by NOAA, to be completely rebuilt. Enter bad science, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, NOAA and regional council environmental community infiltration, and the EDF and NOAA’s extreme push for the catch shares fishery management system.
   Congress, aware of the flawed data being used by NOAA to base their fishery management decisions on, mandated NOAA to have better science in place by 2009. Three years have passed and Jane Lubchenco continues to ignore the mandate while directing science improvement funds to her catch share obsession. She continues to base the closure of fishery after fishery on the “best available science” knowing well the current science in use is fatally flawed and does not accurately represent the status of the nation’s different fisheries.
   Better science will clearly show that most of our marine resources are in very good shape. The many species she states that are currently overfished, and now closed to American fishermen, are actually in far better shape than NOAA and its councils claim. With the use of better science to determine the accurate status of our marine resource, we would not need the EDF and Jane Lubchenco to come save the day with their catch share profit and control scam.
   Flexibility in the MSA that will extend the rebuilding period for fisheries that are showing substantial rebounding and recovery is necessary to bring recreational fishing and the industry it supports back from the brink of destruction. Better science in determining the status of our fishery stocks must also be adopted by NOAA immediately in order that accurate assessments of the nation’s marine resources can by made. There are two bills in Congress that will put this needed flexibility into the MSA. Please read The Political Angler in this issue and determine which of the two bills would add this needed flexibility and most benefit the American fishermen and the industry they support. And also remember which conservation and recreational organizations are supporting the different bills.
   Please read the multi-authored article entitled “The State of the American Recreational Fishery” in this issue of the Journal. It is a powerful article and it will clearly show, because of this lack of flexibility in the MSA, NOAA’s manipulation of the “best available science”, and the EDF’s deceitful and misleading use of the word “overfished,” that access to many different species by our nation’s fishermen is being unnecessarily denied. The consequences of this access denial by NOAA’s EDF puppets, and its councils are also destroying fishing communities, eliminating fishing and marine industry jobs and closing marine and fishing related businesses on a national level.
   With better science in place, and flexibility in the MSA, maybe the EDF, Jane Lubchenco and her stooges, and the environmental community will take their profit making scheme, and their fanatical passion for privatization, power and control and go away leaving responsible fishery management decisions to the fishing community.


   This special issue of the Big Game Fishing Journal will be hand-delivered by courier to every legislator on Capitol Hill at the expense of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) on or before the Walk On Washington, March 21. Please read the articles that have been written by anglers and industry experts and understand the current status of the billion dollar sport fishing and marine industry nationwide. Because of the undue influence of the Environmental Defense Fund and through their puppet NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, our nation’s recreational fishing and the industry it supports is in shambles. If allowed to continue their deceitful and disingenuous tactics that drive their catch share crusade to privatize our marine resources for their profit and control, jobs across the country will continue to be lost by the thousands and the unalienable right to fish enjoyed by the nation’s recreational fishermen will be taken away forever.

   Captain Len Belcaro