Senate passes bill to strengthen fisheries oversight

The Senate passed a bill this week that would ramp up fisheries oversight, require annual catch limits, develop a uniform environmental review for fisheries management plans, and boost the role of scientific advisory committees. The legislation, passed unanimously, renews and improves the 30-year-old Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Bill sponsor and act namesake Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) called the legislation “the most successful federal-state management program ever devised.” Not that he’s bragging. The not-yet-passed House version, sponsored by Reps. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) and Don Young (R-Alaska), would allow fisheries plans that are otherwise abiding by the Magnuson-Stevens Act to be exempt from review under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Pombo approach “almost ensures that fish populations will continue to decline,” says Lee Crockett of the Marine Fish Conservation Network. Ah, Pombo. At least he’s predictable.