WASHINGTON - President Bush on Friday signed into law a measure that overhauls management of marine fisheries and strengthens protections against further depletion of dwindling stocks.
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The bill reauthorizes through 2013 the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, a 30-year-old law that guides fishery management in waters between three miles and 200 miles offshore. The act works to end overfishing in America by 2011, uses market-based incentives to replenish fish stocks and strengthens enforcement of fishing laws.
"I thank President Bush for signing this legislation vital to sustaining our nation's fisheries," said U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. The law bears his name.
"The techniques in this measure have been used effectively to protect Alaska's fisheries. This bill extends Alaska's science-based practices to the rest of our country and will allow the development of unique fishery management plans nationwide," he said in an e-mail statement to The Associated Press. "Our next step is to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing practices that threaten the world's oceans."
Supporters said the measure strengthens current law by requiring an end to overfishing, science-based management of U.S. fisheries and penalties for illegal fishing in international waters.
When Congress passed the measure, the Natural Resources Defense Council said the world's oceans are in serious trouble and the legislation would help reverse their decline. Environmentalists hailed a provision that sets overall limits on the number of fish that can be caught, while allowing fishermen flexibility in how they divide shares of the total catch.
At the insistence of West Coast lawmakers, the bill includes language to speed recovery of Klamath River salmon stocks in California and Oregon. For fishermen adversely affected by recent closures aimed at protecting threatened fish, there would be disaster relief programs.