Audubon Advisory

Why a Law that Protects Fish Matters to Birds

Republicans and Democrats came together in 1976 and created a solution to to prevent the collapse of fish populations, and the birds that depend on them, signing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) into law. The MSA is the primary law that governs management of ocean fish in U.S. federal waters and has served as the nation’s road map to sustainably managed fisheries. Key objectives outlined in the MSA are to prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, increase long-term economic and social benefits, and ensure a safe and sustainable supply of seafood.

The law has guided fishery managers to end chronic overfishing, rebuild 44 fish stocks, and put fisheries on solid, sustainable footing. These improvements to fisheries have secured fish populations for generations to come, benefitting fisherman, fishing communities, recreational and ecotourism industries, and populations of seabirds and other wildlife that rely on fish as a source of food.

The MSA ensures the sustainable management of the prey source of seabirds and other marine wildlife including birds such as the Atlantic Puffin, Brown Pelican, and the globally endangered Black-capped Petrel; recreationally important fish such as red snapper, striped bass, and summer flounder; and marine mammals such as whales, seals, and dolphins. When our ocean's wildlife thrive, so does ecotourism, recreational fishing, and the seafood industry.

Congress is currently working to reauthorize this law, and while significant progress has been made since the MSA was enacted, there is still more work to be done. Audubon supports strengthening this law to protect the prey that birds and other wildlife depend on. Stay tuned for opportunities to take action for our ocean birds.

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