Byline: Joyce Howard Price, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Supporters of a bill to restructure the management of federal ocean fisheries say it will promote conservation and help end commercial over-fishing, but a lack of bipartisan support could delay or sink its passage.
"We are not anticipating passage this year. That will take awhile ... you could be talking about several years," said Lee Crockett, executive director of the Marine Fisheries Conservation Network, a coalition of environmentalists, fishermen and aquariums.
The bill that the diverse 170-group coalition is backing is the Fisheries Management Reform Act of 2004 introduced in June by Rep. Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia, ranking Democrat on the House Resources Committee.
"We're talking to Republicans a lot to try to get them aboard," Mr. Crockett said.
The measure (H.R. 4706) is designed to overhaul management of ocean fisheries by broadening representation and giving more attention to scientific advice and conservation in decisions about how many fish can be taken from the oceans. The bill has 23 sponsors, all Democrats.
"Years of industry self-regulation have led to the mismanagement of our federal fisheries. As a result, marine fish populations have plummeted, and our oceans are in a state of crisis," Mr. Crockett said.
He cited a recent report in the journal Science, which shows that stocks of popular saltwater fish such as tuna, cod and swordfish have plunged 90 percent in the past half-century. He said the "big boats and nets" and other equipment available to fishermen today mean "very effective fish-killing operations. …