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News Feature

Stonington
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, May 9, 2013
Penobscot East director in D.C. advocating for changes to Magnuson-Stevens Act

Robin Alden.
Photo courtesy of Penobscot East Resource Center

by Jessica Brophy

Robin Alden, executive director of Penobscot East Resource Center, was invited to Washington, D.C. to offer leaders at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ideas for changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act during the NOAA “Managing our Nation’s Fisheries 3” conference May 7-9.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act was passed in 1976 and regulates marine fisheries in the U.S.

Alden is asking the NOAA to consider “major changes” to the Act as it enters a new reauthorization period, she said in a telephone interview on Tuesday, May 7. The Act was last reauthorized in 2006.

Right now, the federal fisheries are managed almost exclusively on a by-species basis, meaning that each species is considered separately, and NOAA releases species-specific quotas in what Alden called a “one-size-fits-all” model. Alden is proposing allowing fisheries management to innovate at the regional or local level, pursuing regulation in discussion with local fishermen, even if they don’t have a federal fishing permit. Alden said the current Act does not protect small-scale fisheries and the communities those fisheries support.

“We don’t decide to plow the roads in Stonington from Augusta or D.C.,” said Alden. “And we shouldn’t regulate all near-shore areas that way.”

Specifically, Alden wants to see place-specific, ecosystem-driven fisheries management. The research, including studies by fisheries ecology scientist and Penobscot East co-founder Ted Ames, has shown that it’s important to understand the interaction of various species and fishing within a relatively small geographic area.

“Spawning and nursery areas [as well as fisheries stock] aren’t uniform,” said Alden.

Alden isn’t suggesting a complete overhaul of the Act, but some flexibility to try smaller-scale projects to find what works in various locations. Way down the line, if these changes are adopted, she’d like to see small-scale fisheries with much more flexibility, with fishermen able to (within limits) fish for whatever species are in the area.

The changes she recommends can be understood as a shift from management of species to management of place, she said. “I have no idea how it will be received,” she said. “It’s a pretty radical idea.”

To find Robin Alden’s paper recommending changes, visit managingfisheries.org.