Maryland Congressman Wayne Gilchrest today, 10 March, introduced a measure, the Fisheries Recovery Act, to amend and reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation & Management Act. The bill was announced on Thursday by Gilchrest and the Marine Fish Conservation Network at a Washington press conference. The legislation is intended to further strengthen the nation's main fishery law. The new bill amends the Magnuson-Stevens Act by:

* Making bycatch reduction a priority. Would require the regional fishery councils to develop an accurate bycatch reporting system and establish bycatch reduction quotas.

* Improving protection of essential fish habitat (EFH). Would require the regional councils to ensure new fishing gear or practices will not adversely affect EFH.

* Reforming the regional fishery councils. Would require broader council membership to ensure a balance of commercial and recreational fishing and conservation interests.

* Establishing a mandatory observer program in each fishery. Would require the collection of reliable data from observations of catches at-sea necessary for fishery management.

* Conserving marine ecosystems. Would require regional councils to develop comprehensive fisheries ecosystem plans to cover major fisheries in each region.

* Ensuring application of precautionary fisheries management. Would require the regional councils to prepare fishery management plans that err on the side of conservation absent reliable fisheries data.

The announcement of the bill came on the same day the House Resources Committee held a hearing on Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization; the Senate has already held a series of reauthorization hearings in the field. Among those testifying at the House hearing was Paul Pelligrini, a Eureka fisherman and president of the Humboldt Fishermen's Marketing Association. For more information on the Thursday House hearing or the Fisheries Recovery Act, contact the Marine Fish Conservation Network at:

A summary of PCFFA's Magnuson-Stevens Act testimony submitted at the Senate hearing in Seattle appeared in the February issue of Fishermen's News. It can also be viewed on PCFFA's website at: Also posted is the testimony by Paul Pelligrini on the EFH portions of SFA..