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WHAT IS THE FISH BILL?
The Fish Bill is our name for the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. We call it the Fish Bill because of its central purpose to protect fish, and why should only the “Farm Bill” get an easy to remember nickname?
The Fish Bill was originally enacted in 1976 to govern marine fisheries in federal waters. The most recent reauthorizations have occurred in 1996 and 2006, and we are currently in the process of the reauthorization.
The dominant narrative in fisheries management assumes that market-based strategies alone will save the ocean and the fish. This has led to the adoption of Catch Share policy and similar neo-liberal policies designed to privatize the right to fish, keeping out small and medium scale fishing operations with the smallest ecological footprints. The rationale used is that fewer "more efficient" players are easier to manage and that by turning fisheries access into tradable property rights we will ensure ecological stewardship. But we know better.
NAMA’S PRIORITY CONCERNS WITH THE FISH BILL
Our priority concerns in the Fish Bill reauthorization include negative consequences for marine ecosystems, democracy, local control, communities, and the food system.
Marine Ecosystems - The consolidation of fishing quota can increase negative ecological impacts of fishing including impacts to habitat, migratory patterns, and trophic relationships.
Democracy - The current Fish Bill lacks sufficient accountability measures for regional fishery management councils, which are the predominant structure responsible for ensuring democratic control of fisheries management.
Local Control - Catch Shares can lead to the creation of an absentee owner class that does not fish, but only leases fishing rights, and quota and permit costs create capital barriers, especially to entry for new fishermen.
Communities - The current Fish Bill does not provide sufficient support for small and medium scale fishing operations and are instead leading to mass-consolidation of fisheries and fishing business.
Food System - The current Fish Bill does not address or promote access to healthy, economically accessible, and local seafood for all.
We have identified solutions that will improve each of the ails outlined above. Though many of these are only short-term solutions, we believe they are necessary measures to prevent further harm to marine ecosystems, coastal communities, and community-based fishermen.
No entity should control more than 2% of any species. Congress must institute limits on the consolidation of fishing quota and access privileges in order to avoid the negative ecological impacts of large, vertically integrated enterprises.
The Fish Bill should consider non-fishing impacts to the environment, such as climate change, pollution, deforestation, mining, and oil and gas exploration.
The Fish Bill should reform the Regional Council process with internal mechanisms that decentralize authority and create authentic participatory roles for fishermen and all other interested parties. The Council process must be reformed to better represent the wide range of concerns of fishing communities and of the national interest, and more information needs to remain in the public domain.
The Fish Bill should incentivize diversification of fishing methods and species harvested by vessels as well as promote and support independent, small and medium scale fishing businesses.
Create an initiative that ensures healthy and local seafood is provided to all people regardless of economic status. Community-supported fisheries and fish-to-institution programs could be incentivized and directly supported by the Fish Bill to achieve gains in the seafood supply chain.
Fill out this form to stay updated around Fish Bill action opportunities. Over the next couple months we’ll be bringing these solutions to decision makers and need to show the broad support we have for these measures. If you want to get involved, whether that be signing petitions, writing letters, or submitting public comments, sign up here.
TO LEARN MORE
- Link to NAMA's written testimony to the U.S Senate