Congress upgrades fisheries protection

On Dec. 9, 2006, Congress reauthorized the 30-year-old Magnuson-Stevens Act, a law that sets rules for fishing and ocean management. This is the law’s first wholesale revision since 1996.

Much has happened since then. Fisheries throughout the world are in trouble (SN: 11/4/06, p. 291: Available to subscribers at Worthless Waters: By midcentury, seas’ value may be drained), and some species not targeted for consumption are becoming unintended casualties of fishing fleets (SN: 7/26/03, p. 59: Catch Zero).

Among new features of the law, research would be directed at getting better data on those accidental catches, on the status of fishery populations, and on the impact of recreational fishing. Indeed, the law will establish a new national program to register recreational fishing in marine coastal waters and recreational fishing anywhere for salmon and other fish that spend part of their lives in both fresh and salt water.

The updated law also strengthens controls on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, with the goal of ensuring that other nations provide marine-resource protection that is similar to that in place for fish in U.S. waters. For instance, the law will require the secretary of commerce to strictly define what would constitute violations of international agreements on heavily fished species and on potentially damaging fishing gear.

Although President Bush hadn’t signed the reauthorization bill into law at press time, he was expected to do so. The President issued a statement early last month saying, “This bill embraces my priorities of ending overfishing and rebuilding our nation’s fish stocks.”

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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