- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2004

Supporters of a bill to restructure the management of federal ocean fisheries say it will promote conservation and help end commercial over-fishing, but a lack of bipartisan support could delay or sink its passage.

“We are not anticipating passage this year. That will take awhile … you could be talking about several years,” said Lee Crockett, executive director of the Marine Fisheries Conservation Network, a coalition of environmentalists, fishermen and aquariums.

The bill that the diverse 170-group coalition is backing is the Fisheries Management Reform Act of 2004 introduced in June by Rep. Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia, ranking Democrat on the House Resources Committee.

“We’re talking to Republicans a lot to try to get them aboard,” Mr. Crockett said.

The measure (H.R. 4706) is designed to overhaul management of ocean fisheries by broadening representation and giving more attention to scientific advice and conservation in decisions about how many fish can be taken from the oceans. The bill has 23 sponsors, all Democrats.

“Years of industry self-regulation have led to the mismanagement of our federal fisheries. As a result, marine fish populations have plummeted, and our oceans are in a state of crisis,” Mr. Crockett said.

He cited a recent report in the journal Science, which shows that stocks of popular saltwater fish such as tuna, cod and swordfish have plunged 90 percent in the past half-century. He said the “big boats and nets” and other equipment available to fishermen today mean “very effective fish-killing operations.”

Linda Candler, spokeswoman for the National Fisheries Institute, said her organization thinks the reform bill is “unnecessary.” Instead, she said, the current federal fisheries management legislation “must be enforced.”

H.R. 4706 would enact recommendations by two blue-ribbon panels on changes in the management of ocean fisheries.

Both the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, appointed by the Bush administration, and the Pew Oceans Commission, established by the Pew Charitable Trust, called for changes in the makeup of regional fishery management councils, which are dominated by commercial and recreational fishermen.

They urged broader representation on the council and endorsed policies that would give more attention to science and conservation, rather than short-term profits, in deciding how many fish to catch.

Mr. Crockett said the Pew commission was nicknamed the “green commission” because of its environmental bent. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, he said, was called the “brown commission,” because of assertions by some that fishing interests were over-represented.

“It’s pretty remarkable that two different commissions identified the same problems and proposed the same solutions,” Mr. Crockett said.

The Marine Fisheries Conservation Network points out that 58 of the 71 persons serving on regional fisheries management councils are “either commercial or recreational fishermen, many of whom profit from fishing-related businesses in their regions.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide