Proposed Oceans 21 Bill Confounds Oceans Conservation Efforts, Mca Warns

Urges Congress instead to fund provisions authorized in renewed Magnuson-Stevens Act

Juneau – April 23, 2007 – A new oceans management bill to be considered by Congress on Thursday April 26 at 10am EDT may compromise recently reauthorized legislation designed to protect and enhance the nation’s marine resources, according to Dave Benton, executive director of the Marine Conservation Alliance, who will be testifying at the hearing.

“The Marine Conservation Alliance urges Congress to fund programs authorized by the landmark Magnuson Stevens Act rather than take up new legislation with conflicting management regimes and policy mandates,” Benton said in advance of the April 26th hearing on House Bill 21, also known as “Oceans 21.”

Benton cited the duplication of efforts set forth in the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), re-authorized by Congress just late last year. Instead of enhancing oceans programs, Benton said the proposed new law will only lead to more bureaucracy, conflicting legal mandates, confusion among the public and litigation.
“The revised Magnuson-Stevens Act was a major achievement passed with strong bipartisan support as well as the backing of scientists, fishermen and conservationists,” Benton said. “It included tough provisions to prevent overfishing, strengthen the role of science in fisheries management, improve monitoring and enforcement, and move the nation towards ecosystem-based fisheries management.
“MSA also authorized sustained funding for the marine research necessary to achieve those goals and we are now concerned that the Oceans 21 bill will only pull funding from much needed science and conservation programs authorized under MSA,” Benton said. “Congress needs to implement the conservation programs it created under MSA before marching off in a new direction.”

Rather than enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of our nation’s oceans management regimes, HR 21 would also create a new and expanded bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. with a broad, but poorly defined mandate to “restore the health of marine ecosystems.” To accomplish this ill-defined goal, it sets up and funds a new bureaucracy that would compete with the existing management regime.

“The Marine Conservation Alliance questions whether the nation needs a new, expensive
bureaucracy,” Benton said. “What we need is better coordination of existing management
authorities. We can see this sort of coordinated model already working successfully in Alaska.”

Alaska produces over half the nation’s fish. Roughly 400,000 square miles of habitat have been
protected, and fishery managers set harvest levels at or below those recommended by their scientists. The result is sustainable fisheries and no overfished stocks of groundfish.

In passing the MSA revisions in 2006, Congress cited many of the new measures as being similar to those used in Alaska. The Marine Conservation Alliance urges building on the work already done, securing the funding for the research and conservation programs just passed, and moving forward with the business of putting in practice what was just recently passed into law.

“What is needed now is an effective implementation plan. Congress needs to focus on funding
the programs it just authorized in the renewed MSA,” Benton said.

Click here to learn more about the Legislative Hearing on H.R. 21:

About the Marine Conservation Alliance
The Marine Conservation Alliance is a coalition of seafood processors, harvesters, support industries and coastal communities that are active in Alaska fisheries. The MCA represents
approximately 75 percent of the participants in Alaska shellfish and groundfish fisheries and
promotes science-based conservation measures to ensure sustainable fisheries in Alaska. For
more information, visit