Jan 12 2007
Landmark legislation includes improved tsunami warning system for Washington’s coastal communities
WASHINGTON, DC – Friday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the president’s signing of legislation reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) of 1976. The MSA is the nation’s primary law governing fishing in federal waters and was last updated in 1996. Cantwell, as the top democrat on the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Fisheries and the Coast Guard during the 109th Congress, had a key role in updating this vital legislation, passed by Congress in December.
“This new law enacts science-based limits to halt over-fishing, improve ocean health, and help preserve the thousands of maritime jobs in our state,” said Cantwell. “By continuing the legacy of Washington Senator Warren Magnuson, whose work helped preserve our state’s fishing communities, we’re improving our environment and helping to ensure the continued viability of our local fishing industry.”
The commercial fishing industry contributes as much as $3 billion to Washington state’s economy each year. There are approximately 3,000 vessels in Washington’s fishing fleet, employing about 10,000 fishermen. Seafood processors employ 3,800 Washingtonians, and fish wholesalers employ an additional 1,000.
This legislation strengthens the role of science in fishery management decisions, and sets national standards for fishing quota programs that will improve safety at sea, reduce fleet overcapitalization, and ensure productive fish stocks in the future. The bill ensures National Environmental Policy Act compliance while streamlining procedures to better mesh with the fishery management planning process. The legislation also makes improvements to the nation’s tsunami warning and mitigation system to protect life and property along our coastlines. Cantwell was also able to include a specific directive to complete tsunami inundation mapping studies for inland bodies of water, such as the Puget Sound.
The Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, known as the Magnuson-Stevens Act, is the landmark law guiding the management of our nation’s commercial fisheries in federal waters—valued at more than $31.6 billion.
Cantwell worked closely with Commerce Committee Chair Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Fisheries and Coast Guard Subcommittee Chair Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to reach an agreement with key members of the House and Senate on a final version of the legislation. The final package would strengthen the 1976 law by incorporating specific recommendations made by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy to promote conservation of our nation’s fisheries while supporting a robust national maritime industry.
The bill also:
- Codifies the Puget Sound Regional Shellfish Settlement, an agreement between Washington state Treaty Tribes and shellfish growers over tribal rights to shellfish beds. In exchange for the right to harvest shellfish on tidelands owned or leased by shellfish growers, the federal government and the State of Washington agree to compensate the tribes $22 million and $11 million, respectively.
- Calls for a study by the National Research Council on the increasing acidity of the oceans due to increased carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere and oceans.
- Contains a provision to promote research into deep sea corals, such as those recently discovered off the Washington coast, and promotes the protection of these productive habitats.