DISTINGUISHED SPEAKERS OPEN FISHERIES MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
WASHINGTON, DC (08 May 2013) Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), Eric Schwaab representing the Obama Administration, Chef/Host Barton Seaver of In Search of Food and Deadliest Catch skipper Keith Colburn opened the much-anticipated Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries 3 conference, yesterday at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Hastings, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, addressed an audience of more than 600 on the need for better science, better technology and better transparency. “Science underpins the entire management process,” he said, adding “the problem is that often the ‘best’ information is not ‘available.’” He praised the effectiveness of current Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) in general, saying “A one-size-fits-all management structure is not the most efficient structure … The Act works, it is absolutely necessary to maintain this authority that allows regions to find unique solutions to their problems.” However, he noted that improvements can be made, citing several recent fishery disaster declarations, the need for better scientific information and data management. He praised the public participation and transparency of the Regional Council process in contrast to the lack of transparency in the Regional Planning Bodies of the National Ocean Policy and in the Endangered Species Act. For his full speech, go to http://naturalresources.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=332841.
Eric Schwaab agreed on the need for more fishery data, fish abundance assessments and understanding of the ecosystem. While stating that U.S. overfishing is at an all-time low, he noted, “Fishing community stability needs to improve.” He urged the conference to come up with innovative ideas to improve fisheries management.
Speaking to sustainable seafood, Chef Seaver said “We are not trying to save the ocean; we are trying to save dinner. … People understand if we have no farmers, we have no food, but don’t understand, if we have no fishermen, we have no seafood.” He urged chefs to change the nature of their recipes to include a wider variety of fish species. “There is no such thing as unsustainable seafood, only unsustainable demand.”
From an Alaska fishermen’s perspective, Capt. Colburn said, “One of the biggest hurdles we have is climate change. … In the last decade, we’ve seen the three coldest and three warmest years.” He said, “Sustainability is keeping fishing at a level so I can fish, my kids can fish, my grandkids can fish.”
The opening session also included summaries from the nation’s eight Regional Fishery Management Councils. Established in 1976 under the MSA, the Councils have authority over the fisheries operating seaward of state waters. Among the concerns that resonated in multiple regions were the need for flexibility in regulations to rebuild fish stocks, the benefits of establishing a federal sustainable seafood label, and the need to streamline redundancies in the MSA and National Environmental Policy Act processes.
The conference continued yesterday and today with sessions on improving fishery management essentials, advancing ecosystem-based decision making, and providing for fishing community stability. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) is scheduled to address the conference tonight. The conference concludes tomorrow with conference results. Thursday’s session will be webcast live at managingfisheries.org.
The conference is convened by the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils and hosted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, whose executive director is Donald McIsaac. For more information, visit www.managingfisheries.org or follow the conference on twitter at #MONF.
Download the press release here.