Skip to Page Content
NOAA Fisheries
Office of Constituent Services
Recreational Fisheries Working Group

MAFAC Meeting March 1999



National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
La Jolla, CA
March 23 - 24, 1999

April 2, 1999

Dr. D. James Baker
Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere
U.S. Department of Commerce
Washington, D.C. 20230

Dear Dr. Baker:

I am writing to report to you on the results of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC) meeting held at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, CA, on March 23 - 24, 1999.

As you requested at our meeting in December, MAFAC devoted a significant period of time examining proposed legislation on marine aquaculture and discussing the issue of marine reserves. I have enclosed a draft copy of the resolution adopted on aquaculture and our report on marine reserves. On the latter, please note that MAFAC members were especially concerned that discussions on marine reserves involve a collaborative, "bottom-up" approach with significant communication among all stakeholders. Marine reserves can be logical extensions of current fisheries conservation and management programs, but their establishment will only be supported if all affected parties believe that their concerns have at least been acknowledged. MAFAC provided a number of recommendations to NMFS in this regard.

MAFAC also (with one dissenting vote) endorsed the NMFS Report to Congress on Impacts of California Sea Lions and Pacific Harbor Seals on Salmonids and West Coast Ecosystems and urged NMFS to expeditiously provide suggested legislation to Congress to carry out the recommendations contained in that report.

In regard to vessel monitoring systems, MAFAC recommended that NMFS work with the regional fishery management councils to develop appropriate regional approaches in designing such systems. MAFAC noted that systems should not be limited to enforcement use, but should be examined for use in fisheries research and management. As a result of our recommendation, MAFAC has disbanded its Vessel Monitoring System Committee and will provide any needed future policy guidance at the full MAFAC level. MAFAC also suggested that NMFS examine confidentiality regulations as a way of improving enforcement in the Alaska fisheries.

Finally, MAFAC made some additional minor adjustments to its committee structure in order to further streamline MAFAC operations. These adjustments will also provide an opportunity for new MAFAC members to fully participate.

On behalf of MAFAC, I want to thank all of the NMFS and NOAA personnel who took the time to participate in our meeting, provide us with information, and seek our advice. Special thanks is due to Rollie Schmitten for his support over the last several years. We look forward to working with Penny Dalton when she assumes the position of Assistant Administrator for Fisheries.

Please feel free to contact me if I can provide any additional information on our meeting or on the material contained in this report. I plan on being in the Washington, D.C., area at the end of this month and will contact your staff to see if we can meet for a short time and discuss future MAFAC assistance to NOAA.


Rod Moore
Vice Chair

Encl. (2)

cc: MAFAC members

Regarding Draft Aquaculture Legislation
Approved March 24, 1999

MAFAC supports the Department of Commerce moving forward in developing legislation to authorize the Secretary to establish a regulatory regime for the development and licensing of marine aquaculture facilities in the federal portion of the EEZ.

MAFAC members have a number of concerns with the draft bill and request the Secretary to amend the bill and the supporting documentation to address the issues identified below. MAFAC also requests an opportunity to review and comment on any revised legislation prior to its submission to Congress.

Environmental Standards: The bill requires the Secretary to develop environmental standards for marine aquaculture facilities located in federal waters. MAFAC is concerned about the lack of specificity with respect to these standards. To the extent possible, MAFAC recommends that the environmental standards be more fully articulated in the bill to avoid confusion and to establish some general national standards against which the regulations and proposed criteria can be measured.

Timing: The bill requires that licenses be issued and that the standards developed under Sec. 6 be applied to all facilities within two years. The bill also requires a research and development program (Sec. 5) that will among other things determine what regulatory and other controls are necessary to protect the environment. MAFAC recommends that the standards required in Sec. 6 and the regulatory controls called for in Sec. 5 be developed and implemented prior to the issuance of any licenses. This should occur within two years after date of enactment.

Economic Development Assistance: MAFAC opposes the inclusion of Sec. 4 at this time and requests the Secretary to provide additional information establishing the need for such financial assistance programs for the development of marine aquaculture.

Sec. 5: MAFAC recognizes that the legislation will most likely not be enacted this year. Therefore, MAFAC requests that the Secretary, under existing authority, direct NOAA and NTA to immediately begin the National Marine Aquaculture Research and Development Program required in Sec. 5. This work will need to be completed prior to the issuance of any licenses and there is no reason to wait until legislation is passed. MAFAC also encourages the Secretary to involve as many interested parties as possible in the development of this Program. This would allow the Department to get a jump-start on the development of standards and regulatory controls.

Economic Rent: Economic rent for marine aquaculture facilities is a potential source of income, much like OCS royalties that are paid to the government for the use of public resources. While MAFAC does not want economic rent to be a deterrent to the development of environmentally sound aquaculture, this issue should be debated in Congress. MAFAC recommends that the legislation include a provision that would allow for the collection of economic rent, without requiring it, so that the issue continues to be fully debated in the context of congressional consideration of the bill.

Role of Councils: It is not clear what, if any, legal role the Councils have in the licensing process. Sec. 7 requires that the Councils be provided at least 120 days to review any proposed license, but the responsibilities of the Councils and the opportunity to amend a license are not clear. In addition, once a proposed license is published and provided to the Councils, it will be much harder to require additional conditions. MAFAC recommends that the legislation be amended to require the Secretary to provide the appropriate council with a copy of the license application and proposed conditions before it is publish for public comment. The Councils should be given 120 days to review the application and provide the Secretary with proposed license conditions. If the Secretary does not agree with any of the conditions, the Secretary shall explain in writing to the council why such conditions were not approved. This process is similar to that used for foreign fishing applications under the MSFCMA and provides the Councils with a meaningful role in development and licensing of marine aquaculture facilities.

Licenses: MAFAC understands the need for long term licenses but is concerned about the lack of oversight during this period. Consequently, MAFAC recommends that for any license issued for a period of more than 7 years, the Secretary require at a minimum a 5-year public review. At a minimum every five years, the Secretary would publish a public comment notice and allow the public and the Councils to review the license and conditions. At that time the license could be amended to require additional conditions or possibly withdrawn in cases of poor performance. This process would ensure continual public scrutiny of marine aquaculture facilities without jeopardizing the term of the license.

Rights and Responsibilities of License Holders: The legislation is unclear as to the precise rights and prerogatives of license holders. The bill should be amended to include a section that clearly identifies the rights and responsibilities of license holders, particularly with respect to safety issues, environmental performance, competing uses of the marine environment and rules for transferability. MAFAC also recommends that the Secretary develop a consolidated license process to streamline the marine aquaculture licensing process.

Bonds: MAFAC recommends that the legislation be amended to include a provision that would allow the Secretary to require a license applicant to post a bond. States have experienced cleanup costs of failed aquaculture facilities and a bond could be used to ensure that any failed facility would be cleaned up quickly and in an environmentally sound manner.

State CZM Programs: MAFAC recommends that the legislation expressly state that state CZM programs may adopt more stringent environmental standards than those required by the federal government.

Delineation: The bill or supporting documentation should clearly delineate the areas where this new regime would apply. MAFAC members are particularly concerned about U.S. territories and possessions.

Individual MAFAC members may have additional comments and will provide those to NOAA in the near future. MAFAC hopes that these recommendations are useful and we look forward to working with the Secretary in developing sound legislation that will foster the development of environmentally friendly marine aquaculture.

Report on Marine Reserves Discussions

There exists sufficient and credible evidence that Marine Reserves (a.k.a. Marine protected areas, marine management areas, marine fishery reserves, MFRs) are a viable component of fishery management. This evidence plus a perception in some cases that no other known alternative is available, contributes to the fact that MFRs are and will continue to be a significant issue in marine fishery management. So far as MAFAC members are aware, there exist no coherent guidelines within NMFS that relate to MFR creation and management. NMFS involvement in MFR programs, as a result, is widely variable and for the most part reactive in nature. In general, the overall approach of NMFS and many other groups has been to establish scientific criteria, facilitate enforcement, and attempt to resolve gear conflicts and other fishery issues as they relate to MFRs. In its examination of the issue, MAFAC perceived a substantial disconnect between scientists, managers, and stakeholders in the processes of creating and enforcing MFRs. MAFAC recommends that NMFS take a more pro-active approach to MFRs.

The NMFS approach should include as its centerpiece stakeholder education and assistance with MFR design and management. Stakeholders should include all fishers (recreational, commercial, artisanal), other related federal agencies such as NOS Marine Sanctuaries Program, regulators, scientists, and the general public. We present the following recommendations to NMFS:

1. NMFS should acknowledge Marine Reserves as a major issue and management tool. In doing so, NMFS should examine its allocation of staff who are facilitating MFR discussion and outreach. Because staffing is likely to be a problem, we suggest NMFS fully investigate and utilize alternative sources of expertise including but not limited to

  • Interagency collaborations (Councils, Commissions, States, etc.)
  • Internships (Universities)
  • Volunteers (general public)
  • Consultant contracts

2. NMFS should collaborate with other groups to develop commonly accepted definitions of the terms "reserve," "refuge," "sanctuary," "closed area," "protected zone," etc.

3. NMFS should synthesize information and make it available for use by Councils / Commissions / Territories / States / local groups to facilitate their discussion of MFRs. In particular the information should include

  • Definitions of terms
  • Synthesis of data, results, and effects of MFRs for the purposes of stakeholder education and collaboration prior to creation of MFR regulations.

4. NMFS should further work with the groups listed above to

  • Identify the current overall extent of no fishing areas (military, disposal, no take, etc.) as a baseline for coordinating and evaluating the need for MFRs, and in particular, for each major coastal region synthesize information on existing closures, regulations, and other management practices that serve as the basis for de facto reserves
  • Facilitate processes that are pro-active and characterized by a bottom-up approach and that involve input from stakeholders at all levels
  • Develop features that are customizable by region and that allow for dynamic problem solving
  • Develop inter- (& intra-) agency collaborations that address issues related to MFRs such as NPS pollution (Dept. of Agric.), sedimentation (EPA), community ecology concerns (USFWS), communication cable siting (FCC), fishing by users from other territories (Territorial Governments, fishing associations), dredge spoils (COE), other broad issues of regulation and enforcement (NOAA Sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, national parks), etc.
  • Collect and disseminate information relating to performance of MFRs, including both scientific evidence and testimonials of large and small scale fishers (domestic and global)
  • Characterize essential selection criteria (biological, economic, and sociological)
  • Focus on intact ecosystems
  • Develop information on the complexity of non-fishing factors that also affect fish habitat and include examination of activities that would affect biodiversity within MFRs
  • List expected outcomes that can be quantified in terms of both positive and negative socioeconomic and environmental results
  • Outline conditions that define when an MFR might be terminated after having completed the job for which it was established

NMFS should take full advantage of the five year Sanctuary Review and the National Marine Sanctuary Act Reauthorization that currently are underway. In particular, NMFS should look for disjunctions between Federal and State/Territorial management relations.


NOAA logo Department of Commerce logo