Bill amendment could ease fishing restrictions

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U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., has reintroduced legislation to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and allow limited flexibility for fishery managers when setting annual limits on managed species.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act currently forces fishery managers to set annual limits based on arbitrary time frames as opposed to actual conservation goals, according to the Recreational Fishing Alliance. Fisheries experts say these requirements have restricted recreational anglers from access to rebuilding fisheries, and have caused negative socioeconomic impacts on the recreational fishing industry, according to the RFA.

Pallone’s bill, the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2009, would give the Secretary of Commerce the discretion to adjust rebuilding time frames only if specific criteria are present to ensure that the conservation of such stocks continues to advance.

"This amendment to MSA injects common sense into the fishery management process, and allows regulators to improve efficiency while managing our nation's fisheries, yet will not compromise rebuilding or conservation,” RFA executive director Jim Donofrio said in a statement.

The Marine Retailers Association of America also supports the legislation.

"This legislation and the improvements it would bring to fisheries management are necessary for the long-term health of important recreational fisheries and the boating industries," MRAA president Phil Keeter said in a statement.

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