The Beacon

At Risk: Your Voice in Fisheries Management

In 1970 - the same year that saw the birth of Earth Day - a simple but comprehensive Act was signed into law that would forever alter the federal regulatory process. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) established a national policy to protect the environment, calling for government agencies to consider environmental impacts in all decisions that it made.

Now a federal agency is threatening to change key pieces of this environmental law, and we need to act now to protect its integrity, and our oceans.

NEPA requires the government to take into account public input - since it's our public resources at stake. This can apply to anything from urban development to atomic energy, offshore drilling to the impacts on marine wildlife from commercial fisheries. The Act goes on to say that federal agencies are accountable to the public as the government makes these important decisions.

Last year, Congress reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, our nation's primary law governing fisheries management, and called upon the government to update its NEPA procedures. In response, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) came out with a proposed rule that creates a whole new confusing process for reviewing impacts to the oceans and limits the public's ability to provide input on federal actions.

If NMFS succeeds, it will have weakened the rules for environmental review of how fisheries impact our oceans and marine life. Essentially, it takes the public out of a public process. Oceana uses the current NEPA process to provide input on fishery management decisions to promote ocean conservation and responsible fishery management. Our WaveMakers that live near the coasts often contact their Regional Fishery Management Council during critical decision points. This public comment process is possible through NEPA.

For the past 38 years, this law has been keeping our government in check, and keeping us in the know. Don't let one very small rule make one very big difference in the way our fisheries are managed.

Time is of the essence, so write to NMFS now and tell it that you care about public input and agency accountability. We have the right to know what our fisheries managers are up to and the right to tell them what we think.


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