HR 3919

dallison dallison at
Thu Mar 23 16:05:15 EST 2000

Folks interested in coral reef fish populations should note a piece of
legislation currently in Congress. HR 3919, the Coral Reef Conservation
and Restoration Partnership Act of 2000 was scheduled to be marked up in
the House Resources Committee, Ocean and Fisheries Subcommittee, this
morning at 10 am.  The bill, at page 12, (Section 4(c)) entitled "Coral
Reef Fisheries Management" provides that:  (1)"Notwithstanding any other
provision of law...the Secretary (of Commerce) has exclusive authority in
the Federal Government for managing the fishery resources (as that term is
defined in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act ..
of coral reef ecosystems."  It further provides that: (3)"Nothing in this
Act shall affect the authority of the Regional fishery Management Councils
established under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management

While this may appear to have been inserted just to clarify existing
fishery management authority, Section 4(c) may cede all authority for
management of all living resources, including live coral, to the Regional
Fishery Management Councils rather than to the agencies, such as the
National Park Service or the Fish and Wildlife Service which both
currently have the authority to prohibit all fishing or to limit fishing
to the use of specific non-destructive gear in the marine waters of the
parks and refuges.  If that is the intent of the members of the
organizations working to ensure effective oversight of the US Coral Reef
Task Force, Fish Forever would suggest that our experiences with
Secretarial authority and NMFS and Council management under the Secretary
of Commerce would not warrant a very high degree of confidence in the
conservation emphasis of Commerce Department management.  Generally, in
Commerce, fishing is allowed unless it is specifically prohibited.  
Generally, in Interior department conservation units, fishing is
prohibited unless specifically allowed. We strongly believe that the fish
and fisheries in the National Parks and Wildlife Refuges should be managed
by the Department of Interior agencies currently authorized to conduct
such management.

HR 3919 (Section 4(c)(2) allows, but does not mandate, delegation of
Secretarial authority over fisheries of coral reef ecosystems to other
Federal officials.  It would seem to be better to mandate such delegation
of such authority in any case in which a coral reef ecosystem or portion
thereof is located within the permanently or intermittently water covered
areas within boundaries of any National Park, Refuge or other conservation
unit or within any State, local or regional conservation unit adjacent to
or a part of such a national conservation unit.

I apologize for sending this out so late but I only became aware of the
legislation the night before last and was only in a position to notify one
coral reef conservation organization representative prior to the mark-up
this morning.  I believe that, if the mark up did take place this morning
and the language was not modified, we may have an opportunity to educate
some of our friends and the public of the importance of this matter prior
to the final passage of the bill from the House Resources Committee and to
the floor of the House for a vote.

Please excuse the length of this note.

David L. Allison, President
Fish Forever

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