Pallone Questions NOAA Official on Fisheries Management
WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) appeared at a House Committee on Natural Resources oversight hearing on the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson Act), the legislation that has set the framework for determining how much of any fish stock can be harvested where and by whom each year in federal marine waters. The Magnuson Act is set to be reauthorized before next year.
The hearing comes on top of concerns raised by recreational and commercial fishermen that the Magnuson Act is being implemented with faulty data and a lack of necessary scientific information on fish stocks. The hearing also raised issues of the economic impact that the current federal regulatory regime for fisheries management has on fishing communities.
At the hearing, Pallone questioned Sam Rauch, Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA’s fisheries service is the federal agency charged with administering the Magnuson Act and is responsible for the stewardship of the nation’s living marine resources and their habitat.
Pallone questioned Rauch about the agency’s progress in transition from the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) to a new improved national recreational angler registry, known as the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). The Magnuson Act mandated the transition be done by 2009. Rauch replied that they had not fully met that deadline and that at this time they are still using MRFSS data in conjunction with the new MRIP system.
Pallone further questioned Rauch regarding how NOAA incorporates storms in their models of how much fishing and fish harvesting is occurring—another requirement on NOAA in the Magnuson Act. While Rauch could not directly provide an answer at the time, Pallone stressed the importance of taking into account storms so fishermen are not penalized for time when fishing does not occur.
Lastly, Pallone raised the federal fishery disaster declaration made for New Jersey as a result of Superstorm Sandy and the requirement under the Magnuson Act to provide a comprehensive economic and socio-economic evaluation of the affected region’s fisheries. Pallone requested the results of the report and asked Rauch for recommendations on how the Magnuson Act can be changed to better respond to natural disasters after such storms. Rauch responded that the report had not been completed, and when Pallone asked when it would be completed, he responded that he did not know.
Pallone called for follow up from the agency on his questions that were left unanswered.