This bill would reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act — the primary law governing how fisheries are managed and general fishing activities in federal waters. The original Magnuson-Stevens Act created eight Regional Fishery Management Councils. This reauthorization aims to offer more resources and flexibility to Councils for managing their fisheries.
Under current law, overfished and depleted fisheries are required to rebuild over a 10-year timeframe where no fishing takes place. This bill would replace that requirement with a timeframe that considers the time needed to restore fish populations, plus one mean generation — basically a fish's lifespan. The rebuilding period would be as short as practicable given the biology of the fishery.
Councils could phase-in rebuilding plans for dynamic fisheries over a three-year period to lessen the harm to fishing communities, and could consider environmental conditions and predator/prey relationships when developing rebuilding plans.
When setting up Annual Catch Limits (ACLs), Councils would be directed to consider changes in the fishery’s ecosystem and the economic needs of the fishing communities — giving them flexibility without setting ACLs at a level allowing overfishing. Fish that are accidentally caught and are unlikely to be overfished would not need to have an ACL set for them, and fish with a life cycle shorter than 18 months would also not require an ACL as long as the mortality won’t impact the fishery.