Magnuson-Stevens Act was the first legislation of its kind to manage domestic saltwater fisheries
Washington, D.C. – Tonight, recreational and commercial fishing representatives, members of Congress, and key policy architects gathered on Capitol Hill to recognize the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), a piece of legislation that was first of its kind in establishing a framework for the management of our saltwater fisheries.
“We take many things for granted now that were not the case 40 years ago, when foreign fishing fleets depleted fish stocks just off our coasts,” said Scott Gudes, vice president of government affairs at the American Sportfishing Association. “We owe a debt of gratitude to Sens. Warren Magnuson and Ted Stevens, along with Reps. Gerry Studds and Don Young and their House and Senate colleagues, for their extraordinary leadership in creating this innovative system for managing our marine fisheries for the public good.”
On April 13, 1976, not long after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was created, President Gerald Ford signed the “Fishery Conservation and Management Act,” which set into motion internationally recognized territorial boundaries that are now known as the “exclusive economic zone” between 12 and 200 miles off the coast. Touted as one of the Act’s most significant successes, the “200-mile limit” eliminated foreign fleets from fishing near shore, ensuring that United States resources benefited its citizens and industries. It also established eight regional fisheries management councils still in place today. Since that time, the Act has undergone six amendments, primarily to address sustainable catch limits and rebuild timelines for fish stocks.
“Sen. Magnuson was dedicated to addressing the situation and championed the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, which will always be linked to him. He was proud of this legislation and said it was one of the most important pieces of legislation passed by Congress,” said former Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), who served as Sen. Magnuson’s Chief of Staff. “Being from Washington state, with our substantial fisheries, we were on the front lines seeing foreign fleets deplete our fishery resources.”
In December 1980, Stevens authored the amendment to rename the Act after Warren Magnuson. The name “Stevens” was added to the title through the 1997 Commerce Appropriations Act.
Tonight’s anniversary event was attended by several hundred guests from Congressional offices, representing coastal and non-coastal states, and a myriad of other organizations, pointing to the significance of well-managed ocean fisheries and the legislative groundwork laid by the United States at a time when stewardship of fisheries resources was a new frontier for nations the world over.
“It is an honor to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson Stevens Act. Alaska’s people, economy, and culture have a unique and strong tie to fisheries,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who addressed the D.C. crowd. “The framework put into place by Senator Magnuson and my dear friend, mentor, and fellow Alaskan, Sen. Ted Stevens, has allowed for sustainable management and meaningful stakeholder input. I am proud to continue to uphold the values put into place by Sen. Magnuson and Sen. Stevens.”
“The United States is, and has been, a global leader in responsibly and sustainably managing our nation’s fisheries. Overfishing is at an all-time low, while commercial and recreational fishing contribute billions to the U.S. economy and support millions of jobs,” said Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA Administrator and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. “This work hasn’t been done alone. For decades, NOAA has worked hand-in-hand with Regional Fishery Management Councils, the industry and other stakeholders to invest in science-based management and sustainable fishing practices that benefit businesses and communities. We’ve had tremendous successes over the past 40 years since the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act was signed into law, but we know there’s still work to be done. We have a lot to celebrate and, working together, can continue to build off our successes.”
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and Ed Merlis, a former staff director of the Senate Commerce committee who served under Magnuson on the Appropriations Committee, also spoke at the event co-hosted by Murkowski, Young, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.)
“Tonight, we celebrate the foresight of Sens. Magnuson and Stevens,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, one of the 14 groups sponsoring the event. “Thanks to their leadership and commitment to conservation, America has the best-managed fisheries in the world, thousands of jobs in the recreational and commercial fishing industries, affordable seafood for consumers, and the opportunity for our kids and grandkids to experience the joy of landing a salmon or a grouper. And while the law could benefit from important updates to recognize the growth in recreational angling in the last 40 years, it’s important to celebrate how far we’ve come.”
Here’s what other event sponsors had to say:
“Without the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, fisheries in Alaska might still be subject to rampant over-exploitation at the hands of foreign fleets. The extension of U.S. jurisdiction out to 200 miles paved the way for the successful development of the domestic fleet and today supports a multi-billion dollar industry.”
– Mark Gleason, Executive Director, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers
“Marine fisheries management was forever changed by the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MSA). With the MSA reauthorization now upon us, Congress must better recognize the economic, social and conservation impacts of marine recreational fishing. America’s 11 million saltwater anglers sustain a $70 billion-a-year business that supports 455,000 American jobs.”
– Jeff Angers, President, Center for Coastal Conservation
“The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act has played a critical role in supporting Sen. Stevens’ vision of promoting local economies throughout Western Alaska. This important law benefits every one of the nearly ten thousand Alaskans we serve across our twenty coastal communities. Coastal Villages thanks our leaders in Congress who continue Sen. Stevens’ work promoting the benefits of sustainable fisheries. We are honored to recognize the legacy of “Uncle Ted” and the law that bears his name.”
– Morgen Crow, Executive Director, Coastal Villages Region Fund
“The Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is recognized globally as the gold standard in sustainable fisheries management. It addresses not simply the status of the stocks but the impact of their health has on communities and the economy. In addition to science-based success, MSA stands as clear evidence that a holistic approach is the soundest way to manage fisheries.”
– John Connelly, President, National Fisheries Institute
“The National Marine Manufacturers Association is pleased to recognize the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. This legislation continues to play an important role in helping to ensure that anglers and boaters across the country can enjoy time on some of our country’s most valuable natural resources, its waterways. We support our friends in the recreational fishing community as they work to see this legislation continue to evolve to meet the needs of society and fisheries. Reasonable conservation and management practices are what continue to keep the sportfishing and boating industries viable for generations to come. With this anniversary, we recognize a history of success and look forward to decades of fruitful fishing and boating seasons led by the sound practices this law initiated.”
– Thom Dammrich, President, National Marine Manufacturers Association
“For participants in the commercial fisheries of the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea, the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act was a total game-changer. It allowed American harvesters and processors to develop fisheries that provide jobs for tens of thousands of people and which feed millions more. We will forever be indebted to Sens. Magnuson, Stevens and Representative Young. We also want to thank the current political leaders who have continued the work that was begun forty years ago.”
– Glenn E. Reed, President, Pacific Seafood Processors Association
“The Recreational Fishing Association is very proud to be part of this historic recognition of the “200 Mile Limit.” The Magnuson-Steven Fisheries Conservation and Management Act was enormous for those of us who fished professionally at the time and without it, most of our fisheries would have be depleted in a short time by other nations who were fishing in sight of our shoreline.”
– Jim, Donofrio, Executive Director, Recreational Fishing Association
“The Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act has been the driving force in the development of our domestic federal fisheries. Four decades ago, we watched as Japanese, Russian, Korean, Polish and other nations’ fishing and processing vessels were harvesting more than a billion pounds of fish annually, within miles of our shores, without regard to the health of the resource. Within 15 years the same resource was being harvested exclusively by U.S. fishing vessels and supported by a robust onshore processing industry. Our industry is both strong and sustainable because of the decision in 1976 by the Congress to unilaterally assert sovereign jurisdiction out to 200 miles.”
– Joe Plesha, Vice President, Trident Seafoods
“The Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act’s (MSA) success and world renowned fisheries management in the United States is based on its regional and bottom-up approach, which ensures that the knowledge and concerns of the users and other stakeholders are incorporated into conservation and management measures. This not only facilitates enforcement and reporting of catches, but it is the core to American democracy, ensuring that its citizens are not overburdened with unnecessary regulations and that the government is of, by and for the people. In the reauthorizations of the MSA, the Western Pacific Region was fortunate to have Sens. Ted Stevens and Daniel Inouye in office to champion the inclusion of tuna, the recognition of indigenous U.S. Pacific Island fishing communities and the participation of the Pacific and Western Pacific Fishery Management Councils in international fishery management commissions. Tuna accounts for about 90 percent of the value of fish landed in the U.S. Pacific Islands. From its start, 40 years ago, I loved the MSA. As I look back, I see our actions in the Western Pacific Region have been so conservative. This reflects the traditional values of the indigenous U.S. Pacific Islanders to consider future generations and to respect nature and our place in it.”
– Kitty M. Simonds, Executive Director, Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council
“The Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act has helped to protect our valuable public resources for the past 40 years. Yamaha is proud to be a part of celebrating the forward thinking legislation and those who fought for its passage. We are equally proud to be a part of refining the law as Congress considers its reauthorization. We hope to work with all the stakeholders of the public resource in the process.”
– Martin Peters, Manager, Government Relations, Yamaha Motor Corporation
Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.