RFA to Congress: Recreational Parity on Fishery Council a Priority

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Michael Doebley
May 23, 2002
(609) 294-3315

In 1976, when the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act was written into law, lawmakers recognized the importance of fair and balanced representation for both commercial and recreational interest on the eight regional fishery management councils. Unfortunately, the wording addressing this issue (16 U.S.C. 1852 Section 302) was ambiguous and allowed a politically charged appointment process to circumvent any semblance of balance on the majority of the Councils. The Recreational Fishing Alliance is asking for an amendment in the pending reauthorization that would change the wording to require parity in the distribution of seats held by recreational representatives on all eight Councils.

“The lack of parity between the two resource user groups has lead to failed management plans and slowed efforts to rebuild fisheries by Councils dominated by certain commercial fishing interests,” said Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the RFA. “Councils with a more balanced voting membership have a better track record of halting overfishing and rebuilding stocks, something that benefits both commercial and recreational interests in the long run.”

The appointment process can remain basically unchanged with each state within a Council district provided a seat for its director of marine fisheries or his delegate. However, the persons holding the remaining seats, which are selected from a list of qualified candidates provided by the Governors of member states by the Secretary of Commerce, would have to conform to a provision requiring equal representation of voting members. To accomplish this a wording change in the Act requiring the Secretary to assure parity is necessary. Properly crafted, the amendment will not diminish a governor´s purview in providing candidates, but it will mandate that final selections be made with balance as a major consideration. It will also remove the onerous political pressure placed on the Secretary when making final selections.

“The RFA is working with a number of key members of the House and Senate to see such an amendment become part of the reauthorization process,” Donofrio added. “Recreational fishermen and the multi-billion dollar industry that exists to provide goods and services to them see this as critical to improving the performance of the Council system in managing fisheries for sustainability and for the greatest economic benefit to the nations.”

For more information on this and other pressing issues call 1-888-JOIN RFA.