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Deputy Secretary of Commerce Addresses Councils on Overfishing Issues

At a November 1, 2006 appearance before the Regional Fishery Management Council Chairs, Executive Directors, and new members, Deputy Secretary of Commerce David A. Sampson acknowledged the important role of the Councils and expressed his appreciation for the challenging task of managing our Nation's living marine resources. Councils must make the difficult choice between allowing more fish to be caught now and forgoing future benefits, or conserving fish now and gaining the benefits of a larger and more sustainable fishery later on. These stewardship issues become even more difficult when stocks are overfished and the fishing industry has already faced reductions in catch.

In his address to Council representatives, Dr. Sampson noted that October 2006 marked the 30th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and the 10th anniversary of the Sustainable Fisheries Act. "Overfishing is a legacy we cannot leave to future council members, agency officials, or to the Nation," said Sampson. "Council members must work closely with new members and the agency to meet the Congressional mandate to prevent and end overfishing, and rebuild our Nation's valuable marine fish stocks to their full potential." Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act will likely bring major new challenges to fisheries management, such as ending overfishing in a short timeframe, setting quotas where none existed in the past, developing and managing limited access privilege programs, and moving toward ecosystem management.

"Although the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act faces an uncertain future in this session of Congress, it is the Administration's position and our sense from Congress that overfishing must be ended, and quickly," said Dr. Sampson. "We look to the Councils to work in partnership with the Administration to design and take the hard steps necessary to ensure sustainable fish stocks in the future… the Councils are uniquely poised to develop the fishery plans and amendments that will end overfishing and rebuild stocks in the most efficient, effective, and economically sensitive manner possible. While we believe the Councils are best positioned to do this work, the Secretary of Commerce can not wait if the Councils fail to act. If the Councils will not end overfishing, we will."

Click here to read the full text of Deputy Secretary Sampson's remarks.

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