U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton voted against the House bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act on Wednesday because the bill undermines efforts to improve the science used to generate stock assessments and pits fishing stakeholders against each other, the congressman said in a statement Friday.
Moulton joined seven other Massachusetts Democrats in opposing the measure in what became a highly contentious and politicized campaign, dividing the House largely along party lines while also dividing some recreational and commercial stakeholders into opposing camps.
In the end, the bill spearheaded by Alaska Republican Don Young prevailed 222-193. Rep. Stephen Lynch of Boston was the only member of the Massachusetts delegation — and one of only nine Democrats throughout the House — to vote for the reauthorization of the officially named Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
Moulton’s statement touched on some of his reservations of the bill.
“Over the past three years and through numerous conversations with fishermen, scientists and environmental groups, one thing has been made abundantly clear: We need to improve the science behind our federal stock assessments,” Moulton stated. “The reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens undermines our efforts. We need everyone on the same page. We all want sustainable fisheries for today and future generations and we shouldn’t have to pit one group of fishermen against another to achieve that.”
Proponents of the bill said it will provide federal fishery managers, including the eight regional fishery management councils, with far more flexibility in establishing timelines for rebuilding endangered fish stocks, as well as providing more latitude in applying alternative standards for determining the health of individual stocks.
John Quinn, chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council, couldn’t be reached for comment on the reauthorizing bill that now heads to the Senate.
While some fishing industry groups, such as the National Coalition of Fishing Communities, praised the bill, other fishing stakeholders such as the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition, said they would reserve comment until they had a better opportunity to analyze it.
“We’re still trying to get our arms around it,” said Jackie Odell, executive director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition. “There’s a lot to digest.”
Environmental and conservation groups, however, wasted little time skewering the bill.
Oceana said the bill “would turn the clock backwards on fisheries management” and stymie progress in restoring fish populations.
“The Magnuson-Stevens Act has succeeded in reversing overfishing and bringing back fisheries abundance in the U.S.,” Oceana’s campaign director, Whitney Webber, said in a release. “However, H.R. 200 would undo significant progress we’ve made over the past several decades for the health of America’s fisheries and fishermen.”
Webber also said the bill will “weaken science-based conservation of U.S. fish populations, decrease accountability and increase the risk of overfishing by removing annual catch limits for many species.”
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.