By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Monday, June 1, US Representatives Gary Palmer (R-Hoover), Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose), and Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) voted for HR1335, “The Strengthening Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act” (the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization) and issued statements saying that the changes will benefit Alabama fishermen.
Congressman Byrne said: “Tonight was a big win for Red Snapper fishermen in the Gulf and fishermen all across the country. These provisions were designed to give the Gulf states control over the science and data collection as it relates to Red Snapper, and I believe that with better data and more flexibility for fisheries managers, we can get back to having a real Red Snapper season in the Gulf.”
Congressman Palmer said, “Fishing is important in Alabama, both for commerce and for recreation. This bill will provide for more opportunities for Alabamians to have a stronger voice in the process of deciding how our fisheries are managed by replacing the current one-size-fits-all approach to a state managed approach that requires state and local data in decision-making. The bill also extends, from 3 miles to 9 miles, the control of state fisheries over red snapper stocks. These improvements will be an economic boon to Alabama’s fisherman as well as the public consumer.”
Congresswoman Roby wrote, “If you’ve been fishing in the Gulf the last few years, you know how ridiculous the regulations and limits have become. That’s particularly true with Red Snapper, a popular and plentiful species along the Gulf Coast. The reason is unnecessary and intrusive federal regulations that aren’t good for fishermen or fish…Tonight the House acted to finally fix that by modernizing our law and giving states and regional regulators more flexibility to shift catch limits as water conditions change. The bill, HR1335, ‘The Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,’ also works to increase transparency, empower local experts who have a greater knowledge of regional needs, give states more of a say in decisions affecting them and support job growth- all with no increase in federal spending.”
Rep. Byrne said, “I started working on this issue as soon as I got to Washington last year, and this vote is a big step forward. I will now get to work with my Gulf Coast colleagues in the Senate, including Senators Shelby and Sessions, to keep this legislation moving.”
The bill includes three reforms from Congressman Byrne that are designed to get a longer Red Snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico. Byrne’s provisions would: repeal the inflexible quotas for the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper fishery, extend state water boundaries for each Gulf state to nine nautical miles, and remove data collection and stock assessments from federal control.
Rep. Roby said, “Fishing is not only a large recreational attraction in Alabama; it’s also an important facet of our State’s economy. I appreciate my colleague, Rep. Bradley Byrne’s leadership on this issue, and I’m proud to be a part of this effort to make sense of our fishing laws.”
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner said in a statement, “America’s seafood industry is one of the largest in the world and employs more than one million fishermen. The risk takers and entrepreneurs who sustain this industry don’t just put food on our tables, they support jobs and represent tens of billions of dollars in economic impact. Today’s vote to renew Magnuson-Stevens will mean increased flexibility for regional fishery councils — providing more stability for fishermen — and will help rebuild individual fisheries using science instead of arbitrary deadlines. This bill prioritizes collection of more data and helps stakeholders tailor their catch share limits based on the needs of specific marine fisheries. Together, these reforms give fishermen and all parties more of a stake in the process. I commend my colleague Rep. Don Young for his effort on these much-needed reforms and I urge their swift consideration in the Senate.”
Alabama Marine Resources Division Director Chris Blankenship praised the House-passed bill. Blankenship said, “The State of Alabama is glad to see the House pass this important piece of legislation. It is very fitting that it passed on the opening day of the red snapper season. We appreciate the efforts of Congressman Byrne and we hope this eventually leads to real reforms in the way Red Snapper and other fish are managed and gives more control to the states.”
The House passed the bill on a vote of 225 to 152.