4/13/16: From the Executive Director’s Desk: Today Marks the 40th Anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Act

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An Executive Director’s Reflections on 40 Years of the Magnuson-Stevens Act

The ability for affected stakeholders to have a seat at the table, to represent the diversity of viewpoints in the fishery, and to vote on decisions that may directly impact them is both a humbling opportunity and terrifying responsibility.  While there have been successes, it is clear that significant challenges still remain – namely, a lack of sufficient resources for collection of baseline data that are so critical to the decisions the Council makes.  Fishermen, communities and associated businesses will continue to pay the price until these are addressed.  The Council is taking some pioneering steps to fill these data gaps, and we hope that both our stakeholders and management partners will collaborate with us as we move forward.

~Dr. Michelle Duval, Council Chair

Congratulations to all of our stakeholders, Council members, partners, and the entire Council family.  Today marks the 40th Anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal legislation that has guided federal fisheries management towards sustainable and robust fisheries since 1976. The Act established the Council system and has evolved over time to include other mandates that have developed some of the most well managed fisheries in the world.

The greatest thing about the Council process is that it is open and transparent with participation by all stakeholders.  When establishing the make-up of the Councils, Congress chose to involve individuals with explicit fisheries knowledge, state representatives with direct research and management expertise, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Coast Guard, and the State Department as decision makers.  What a wise and bold decision.  On the South Atlantic Council we have an even balance of representatives from each of our four states – one commercial, one recreational, and one state representative.  Those 12 individuals and the National Marine Fisheries Service Regional Administrator are our 13 voting members.  The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Coast Guard, and State Department vote at the committee level but not at full Council.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act  was and continues to be the most important piece of federal legislation in the field of fisheries management. It created a whole new form of fisheries governance which includes the users of America’s fishery resources and has resulted in significant positive benefits for these resources and their users.

~David Cupka, Past Council Member & Past Chair

The Council relies heavily on input from Advisory Panels, made up of fishermen, dealers, and non-governmental organizations, to make decisions.  The Scientific and Statistical Committee reviews stock assessments and provides catch level recommendations to the Council.  All of these meetings, as well as Council meetings, are open to the public.  Meeting materials are posted to the Council’s website prior to the meeting.  The Council welcomes public input through mail, email, webinars, scoping meetings, public hearings, and during Council meetings.

There is no other form of government where you, as a member of the public, have such easy access to the same materials used by the decision makers, easy access to 3 members of the Council from your state to talk with, and easy access to open meetings.  Please take advantage of the many opportunities to participate - - the Council is very interested in what you have to say!

When history looks back it may or may not have been a good thing the way things have been done. If you lose the infrastructure to rebuild fisheries, when the fisheries are rebuilt you may not have the necessary parts to keep fisheries running.

History will be the judge of whether or not it is a success. I feel we need to use more time to rebuild the stocks – fisheries will come back. Look back at king mackerel with the Gulf and South Atlantic; the Gulf chose a high ABC and the South Atlantic chose a medium ABC and both fisheries recovered in the same amount of time. No doubt that MSA is rebuilding fisheries-that is a fact.

~Ben Hartig, Current Council Member & Past Chair

I am honored to be only the 4th Executive Director in the South Atlantic Council’s 40 years and I have worked with the Council for 36 years.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank our previous Council members, staff, and partners for all the help and support over the past 40 years.  You all share in our success.  While the process has been rocky at times, and a number of issues remain to be fully addressed (for example, data and the need for more stock assessments) we should all recognize the tremendous trust that has been placed in the Council process and the awesome responsibility we all have to manage and conserve our fishery resources for the greatest benefit of all citizens.

We at the South Atlantic Council are committed to working cooperatively to address our challenges and look forward to hearing what each of you have to say.  Get involved and see you at a meeting!

Gregg Waugh,

Executive Director


An Executive Director’s Reflections on past and future federal fisheries management