The Fishery Conservation Transition Act, introduced July 15 by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) as S.3594, has been designed to preserve the crucial conservation standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) while providing federal fisheries managers some much-needed tools to address critical fisheries issues.
In particular the AFCTA provides marine fisheries managers the time, resources and specific direction to address current deficiencies in procedures mandated by the MSA.
Under current provisions of the MSA, NOAA does not have the tools to address overfishing without resorting to drastic and disruptive closures, such as the total closure of fishing for all bottom species when only one species may require additional regulation.
NOAA's lack of data on species under its management is an on-going concern, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico where baseline data will be needed to build recovery plans in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.
Recently managements decisions that pointed to the glaring deficiencies in current procedures involved the closing of recreational fisheries: In particular, NOAA's closure of the South Atlantic red snapper fishery and the pending closure of all bottom fishing in a 5,000-square-mile area of the South Atlantic.
Additional shortcomings in the existing NOAA procedures fail to acknowledge the importance and economy of recreational fishing in the development of recovery plans. Misplaced priorities lack of scientific research have forced NOAA Fisheries to make drastic and abrupt decisions that are highly detrimental to the $82 billion recreational fishing sector.
The FCTA addresses the fatal shortcomings in the current MSA procedures by providing: the development of recovery plans for an individual species, allowing management plans to be implemented with a rifle rather than a shotgun; a level of leeway in stock rebuilding time frames, based on individual circumstances as opposed to a blanket deadlines which may not be appropriate for all situations and species; required consideration of alternate management measures and more frequent stock assessment ; and a National Science Foundation study focused on the particulars of management challenges when addressing multi-species complexes, in order to differentiate regulations to target particular species in need of protection.
The FCTA has been received broad-based support from the sportfishing community, and praise from a list of organizations that includes the American Sportfishing Association, The Billfish Foundation, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, International Game Fish Association and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.