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SENATE ACTS TO PROTECT FISHERIES

But House Bill Threatens Rollbacks

WASHINGTON (June 19, 2006) -- The Senate approved a bill today that maintains key protections for the nation's fisheries and takes new steps to rebuild fish populations, which would boost the economies of coastal communities throughout the country.

Under the direction of Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the Senate voted by unanimous consent to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, maintaining key provisions of current law, but also taking important steps forward by providing accountability in fisheries management, increasing the role of science and an ecosystem-based approach, and strengthening protections for valuable marine resources in international waters.

But the House is heading in the opposite direction, poised to roll back key provisions of the nation's premier law governing the management of our ocean fisheries, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The House is expected to take up the measure next month.

"The House bill would scuttle the current rebuilding requirements, jeopardizing the recovery of many depleted fish stocks and the livelihoods that are dependent on them," said Sarah Chasis, director of NRDC's Ocean Initiative. The House measure also seeks to limit public participation in the fishery management process, as provided by the National Environmental Policy Act.

"The populations of many of our most popular fish are already seriously depleted. And fisheries and coastal economies will continue to decline unless Congress maintains current protections and then reinforces them with a system to end runaway harvest levels. If improvements are not made, the House bill deserves to be deep-sixed," Chasis said.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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