The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) became law in 1976, establishing a system of federal fisheries management in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), or waters three to 200 miles offshore. Named after the late Senators Warren Magnuson of Washington and Ted Stevens of Alaska, the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) was designed to address overfishing and to manage and conserve fishery resources through stakeholder participation. As a measure of MSA’s implementation, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was set up under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to oversee federal fishery policy nationwide. In addition, eight councils were created to advise NMFS and the Secretary of Commerce on federal fishery policy decisions at a regional level, and to provide an opportunity for stakeholders in the fishery to participate in management. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) is the regional council that advises on management of Alaska’s federal fisheries.
Congress has revised the Magnuson-Stevens Act several times since its creation in 1976. Over the course of AMCC’s twenty-year history, we have been actively involved in:
- 1996 Reauthorization: AMCC lobbied for conservation and communities. The Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 was an amendment to MSA that included new provisions to prevent overfishing, minimize bycatch, protect essential fish habitat and consider communities (not only corporations) in management decisions – priorities that AMCC championed.
- 2002: AMCC developed conservation and community standards for catch share programs that became the basis for promoting changes in the next MSA reauthorization.
- 2006: AMCC and Alaskan fishermen presented testimony before congressional committees and supported numerous Alaska fishermen delegations to travel to Washington, DC in support of conservation and opportunities for local fleets in the new law. Congress reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 2006. AMCC celebrated provisions to end overfishing nationally and to require the NPFMC to consider communities when designing new catch share programs. Since success sometimes means stopping negative things from happening, AMCC helped avert a dangerous provision that would have broadly authorized fishery managers to allocate market share to specific seafood processors, which would have consolidated wealth of public fishery resources into fewer hands.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act is currently up for re-authorization and AMCC has partnered with other groups around the country to not only make improvements to the law, but to prevent Congress from rolling back requirements for science-based catch limits and rebuilding of overfished species. AMCC’s priorities for MSA reauthorization include:
- Defending science-based catch limits, accountability measures and rebuilding plans.
- Strengthening community protections overall and in limited access privilege programs in particular.
- Strengthening measures to minimize bycatch and habitat impacts.
- Supporting an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management.
- Elevating subsistence in the MSA alongside commercial and recreational fishing interests and providing for a designated subsistence/tribal seat on the NPFMC.
- Improving catch accounting by all fishing industry sectors (recreational and commercial) by developing cost effective, fleet compatible monitoring strategies (integrating observers, electronic monitoring, and dockside sampling).
Reauthorization can be a long process, but it’s happening right now! Please stay tuned for ways in which you can contribute to the current Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization and take action for more sustainable fisheries in Alaska.