California Senator’s Bill Would Promote Ecosystem-based Management, Ocean Governance Reform, and Fish Habitat Protection
WASHINGTON – A broad coalition of fishermen, environmentalists, marine scientists, and aquariums gave its enthusiastic support for bold legislative measures introduced today by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). The National Oceans Protection Act of 2005 seeks to increase the profile of the oceans to the highest levels of government, coordinate government actions affecting the oceans, and reform management of the nation’s coastal waters and their resources.
“Thanks to Senator Boxer, Congress can begin developing the kind of thoughtful and effective management structure that our oceans desperately need and greatly deserve,” said Lee Crockett, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network (Network), the largest national coalition solely dedicated to promoting sustainable fishery management. “Improving our fisheries management is a critical component to restoring the health of our oceans, and we are pleased that this visionary bill includes requirements for creating a thriving future for our ocean fish and our fishing communities that depend on those resources.”
This is the most comprehensive national ocean policy bill ever introduced in Congress. The last significant revision of this magnitude to overall ocean management was in 1970 when President Richard Nixon established the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by presidential order.
The Network said that Sen. Boxer’s bill would redirect the guiding principle behind fishery management from that of promoting American fishing to protecting the long-term health and viability of fisheries for the lasting benefit of all who rely on these resources. This bill would enact critical improvements to fisheries management and add new measures to protect fish habitat, minimize bycatch (the catching and killing of non-target ocean wildlife), and require the development of ecosystem-based management plans. Other measures as part of a new comprehensive ocean policy address pollution, invasive species, and threats from global warming, which also affect the health of the nation’s fisheries and oceans.
“Measures in this bill are good for fish and good for fishermen,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “Senator Boxer’s foresight and courage carrying this legislation is aimed at assuring a future for America’s oldest industry.”
Language to improve the regional fishery management council system in this bill mirrors H.R. 1431, the Fisheries Science and Management Enhancement Act of 2005, introduced in March by a bipartisan group of House Members led by Ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Resources Committee Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.). Both bills ensure that political and economic influences do not override sound science in fishery management decisions. Additionally, the bills seek to broaden membership on the fishery management councils to include members of the public and promote cooperative research programs between fishermen and scientists to collect better fishery data.
“The current fishery management system has perpetuated poor management decisions that have depleted our marine fish. This legislation is long overdue,” said Ray Pringle, president of the commercial fishermen’s group, Florida Fishermen’s Federation.
Sen. Boxer adapted many of the sections of this bill from recommendations by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission. Each commission spent three years studying the health of our oceans.