RFA CALLS FOR FLEXIBILITY TO REBUILD FISHERIES
Washington, D.C. - December 5, 2007, Jim Donofrio, Executive
Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Natural
Resources on rebuilding fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).
The House Committee on Natural Resources invited the RFA
to share its views on the challenges in meeting the requirements of the MSA. Using summer flounder, a vitally important
recreational fishery on the East Coast as an example, RFA testified that the current law has tied the hands of fishery managers.
The summer flounder stock is now at a size not seen in 25 years, fishing mortality has decreased over 80%, total harvest has
decreased over 96%, and both total stock biomass and spawning stock biomass have increased 251% and 280%, respectively.
However, despite what can only be considered strong progress, recreational fishermen will face the most restrictive quotas
In his opening statement, Cong. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) suggested
a need to write flexibility into the MSA. The RFA welcomed this announcement and Mr. Donofrio said, "I am grateful for
Mr. Pallone's leadership and I am heartened to hear that Mr. Pallone is considering legislation " to inject flexibility into
the law. Mr. Donofrio further said, "Without flexibility in the statute, fisheries managers will continue to be
held to unrealistic and unachievable expectations".
The RFA also took exception to calls from environmental
activists to shut down the summer flounder fishery. Mr. Donofrio said, summer flounder "has experienced rebuilding similar
to that of perhaps the most famous rebuilding success [striped bass]. Yet…the Pew Environmental Group recently
called for a 10-year moratorium on all summer flounder fishing….At least Pew admitted what they have denied for so long.
They just want to end fishing."
After the hearing, Mr. Donofrio said, "The continued hyperventilation
and breathless calls to shut down fisheries are pretty transparent. The fishing community is apparently a good source
from which the environmental community can fund-raise. Fishermen across this country know that it is patently unfair
to place unrealistic scientific objectives on fishermen to rebuild fish populations. Scientists, managers, fishermen,
and members of the environmental community know full well the limitations of fisheries science and the uncertainties in the
marine environment. It is my hope that interested parties can agree that the statutory regime cannot dictate biologically
impossible results and that common sense revisions need to be made."
Mr. Donofrio concluded by saying, "I am grateful for the
opportunity to represent the views of recreational fishermen before Congress. I commend Congressman Pallone for calling
for this hearing, as well as other members of the Committee, including Chairwoman Bordallo, and Ranking Republican Henry Brown
(R-SC), for their interest in these issues."