Fishing & Boating News

Recognizing 40 Years of the Legislation That Established U.S. Fishing Boundaries

by: Mary Jane Williamson, Dir Communications,

(Apr 21, 2016 - Washington, D.C.)

 Tonight, recreational and commercial fishing representatives, Members of Congress, and key former and current individuals from the administration gathered on Capitol Hill in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), a first-of-its-kind piece of legislation that established a framework to manage domestic, federal saltwater fisheries.


“We take many things for granted now that were not the case 40 years ago when foreign fishing fleets depleted fish stocks just off our coasts,” said American Sportfishing Association Government Affairs Vice President Scott Gudes. “We owe a debt of gratitude to Sens. Warren Magnuson and Ted Stevens, along with Reps. Gerry Studds and Don Young and their House and Senate colleagues, for their extraordinary leadership in creating this innovative system for managing our marine fisheries for the public good.”


On April 13, 1976, President Gerald Ford signed the “Fishery Conservation and Management Act”, not long after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was created. The Act set into motion internationally recognized territorial boundaries today known as the “exclusive economic zone” between 12 and 200 miles off the coast. Touted as one of its most significant successes, the “200-mile limit” eliminated foreign fleets from fishing nearshore, ensuring United States resources benefited its citizens and industries. It also established eight regional fisheries management councils still in place today. Since that time, the Act has undergone six amendments, primarily addressing sustainable catch limits and rebuilding timelines for fish stocks.


Providing remarks on the importance of this landmark law were:
    •    Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
    •    Ed Merlis, former Staff Director for Sen. Magnuson, Commerce Committee and Appropriations Committee
    •    Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA Administrator and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
    •    Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)


"It is an honor to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson Stevens Act. Alaska’s people, economy, and culture have a unique and strong tie to fisheries,” said Murkowski. “The framework put into place by Senator Magnuson and my dear friend, mentor, and fellow Alaskan, Sen. Ted Stevens, has allowed for sustainable management and meaningful stakeholder input. I am proud to continue to uphold the values put into place by Sen. Magnuson and Sen. Stevens.‎"


In December 1980, Stevens authored the amendment to rename the Act after Warren Magnuson. The name “Stevens” was later added to the title in the FY 1997 Commerce Appropriations Act.


“Sen. Magnuson was dedicated to addressing the situation and championed the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 which will always be linked to him. He was proud of this legislation and said it was one of the most important pieces of legislation passed by Congress,” said former Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), who served as Sen. Magnuson’s Chief of Staff. “Being from Washington state, with our substantial fisheries, we were on the front lines seeing foreign fleets deplete our fishery resources.”


Several hundred representatives from Congressional offices and a myriad of other organizations attended the event, including coastal and non-coastal states alike, pointing to the significance of well-managed ocean fisheries and the legislative groundwork laid by the United States at a time when stewardship of fisheries resources was a new frontier for nations the world over.


“The United States is, and has been, a global leader in responsibly and sustainably managing our nation's fisheries. Overfishing is at an all-time low, while commercial and recreational fishing contribute billions to the U.S. economy and support millions of jobs,” said Sullivan. “This work hasn't been done alone. For decades, NOAA has worked hand-in-hand with Regional Fishery Management Councils, the industry and other stakeholders to invest in science-based management and sustainable fishing practices that benefit businesses and communities. We've had tremendous successes over the past 40 years since the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act was signed into law, but we know there's still work to be done. We have a lot to celebrate and, working together, can continue to build off our successes."


The 14 sponsoring organizations thank Sen. Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Rep. Young, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) for hosting this event.


The sponsoring organizations are: Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Villages Region Fund, Friends of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, National Fisheries Institute, National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Pacific Seafood Processors Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, The Billfish Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trident Seafoods Corporation and Yamaha Motor Corporation