Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, today introduced the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act, a bill that outlines legislative priorities that will improve fisheries management in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic regions. The purpose of the legislation is to begin outlining Florida’s priorities for the eventual reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). The legislation is the result of multiple hearings, meetings, and conversations with stakeholders from the state.
“Florida’s fisheries deeply impact the economic well-being of our state, as well as many Floridians whose way of life depends on them. But our fisheries are also a national treasure that feed Americans across the country, provide jobs across the food industry chain, and have become a favorite pastime for millions who provide direct and indirect benefits to our local, state and national economies,” said Rubio. “This legislation ensures necessary improvements to management and data collection are made to fully optimize our fisheries and help advance Florida’s interests when it comes time to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act. However, I know there is more work to be done, and I will continue to work with Floridians and my colleagues in Congress to prioritize reauthorization of the MSA in the next Congress.”
“The Gulf Seafood Institute is very pleased to see Senator Rubio taking a bold first step at introducing legislation to update the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA). The Gulf of Mexico seafood supply chain represented by GSI – fishermen, processors, retailers, restaurants and consumers – relies on a robust and workable MSA to protect access to our fisheries while also ensuring these resources are sustainable for the long term,” said Margaret Henderson, Executive Director of the Gulf Seafood Institute. “GSI has worked hand-in-hand with Senator Rubio and his staff to make sure this bill provides a framework to address key challenges facing the Gulf seafood community, including balanced representation on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, effective management of the Gulf red snapper fishery, and more. We look forward to continuing our work with Senator Rubio on MSA over the remainder of this session and into the next.”
“We are pleased to see many of the Morris-Deal priorities addressed in Senator Rubio’s legislation, reflecting his commitment to give long overdue attention to improving recreational fisheries management,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “We look forward to continuing our engagement with Senator Rubio and Senator Begich to incorporate several other priorities in the final version of any legislation, including a fix for the broken management of the red snapper fishery in the Gulf.”
A PDF of the legislation is available here. Major provisions of the legislation include:
- Gives Councils greater flexibility in setting rebuilding timelines for fisheries;
- Includes provisions to increase the availability of funding for stock assessments, surveys and data collection;
- Requires the Secretary to create a stock assessment plan to better prioritize stock assessments and submit a report to Congress on how to improve data collection from fishermen and other stakeholders;
- Includes provisions to increase transparency and public involvement in the scientific and statistical committee process;
- Authorizes Councils to consider alternative management measures such as extraction rates or fishing mortality targets in fishery management plans to better reflect the different priorities of each industry;
- Ensures that nominations to the Gulf and South Atlantic Councils reflect the mixed nature of fishery stakeholders by ensuring commercial, charter and recreational fishermen are afforded the opportunity to be nominated;
- Includes a requirement for the Council to review the allocation process every five to eight years and directs the National Academy of Sciences to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator to assist in identifying what Councils should take into account when dealing with the allocation process;
- Resolves inconsistencies between the Capital Construction Fund and Fisheries Finance Program;
- Repeals Section 407(d) of MSA;
- Requires the Secretary of Commerce to make fishery disaster designations within 90 days of receiving information from the State; and
- Exempts fisheries with a mean life cycle of 1.5 years or with spawning areas outside the United States, such as spiny lobster, from unnecessary rebuilding timelines.