On the day before he celebrated his 40th year in Congress, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) threw his weight behind reauthorization of the nation’s top fisheries law.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act is the cornerstone of federal fisheries law, but it must be renewed every 10 years. The last renewal was in 2006, and given the glacial pace of Congress, debate must begin early in order to prevent a calamitous pothole in fishing industry regulations.

“As Congress proceeds with the reauthorization effort of Magnuson-Stevens, I advise all stakeholders to weigh in and share their recommendations for how to increase the effectiveness of this important piece of legislation,” Rep. Young said in a statement following the opening session of the House natural resources committee. “The commercial fishing industry is the largest private employer in Alaska, so in the coming months I encourage all Alaskans to forward along ways to improve this bill — which has effectively managed our wild fish stocks for decades, and hopefully will continue to do so for decades to come.”

Little opposition is foreseen for the reauthorization itself, but commercial fishermen and fisheries experts are likely to lobby hard in favor of revisions that would give the National Marine Fisheries Service power to implement new programs.

In 2006, Congress implemented 10-year rebuilding schedules for damaged fisheries and set a timeline to implement catch limits in every American fishery.

This time around, some Alaska fishermen are lobbying hard in favor of electronic monitoring over human observers.

A new observer program implemented this year has proven more costly than predicted, and small-boat fishermen have pleaded for NMFS to introduce a camera-based system similar to that used in Canadian fisheries.

Contact the Mirror at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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