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Fishery reauthorization bill approved by House committee

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The Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act (H.R. 4742) was approved by a House committee on Thursday, May 29. The House Natural Resources Committee voted in favor of the bill, which would reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation & Management Act. The committee approved a series of amendments.

The bill passed on a roll call vote of 24 to 17. One of the approved amendments would require new federal-state partnerships to collect recreational fishing data. The Department of Commerce would have to work with states and give guidance to help them collect info. The amendment would require a report every other year detailing the efforts. States could get federal grants to collect the data. Within two months of the bill's passage, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences would start work on a study to see how collection of state fisheries data has improved since 2006. The report would be due in a year.

The bill would also allow more flexibility in managing fisheries, since the fishing community has complained about the requirements thrust upon them in the 2006 law. And the bill would give fishermen a greater say in determining when catch share programs will be implemented and gives them more information. It includes new requirements on the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration in accounting for how it collects and what it does with its money. The bill would keep all funding at current levels for the next five years.

The committee has conducted a series of hearings on the issue going all the way back to 2011. Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) said if you don't like provisions in the bill, there will be further opportunities to amend it before Congress finally passes it. No specific companion legislation is pending in the Senate, though in April, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation approved a bill dealing only with Pacific fishing.

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