Fishermen Seek Loosening of Federal Restrictions

By Lauren Wanko

Commercial fisherman Michael Karch wants Congress to make changes to the primary federal law that governs marine fisheries management, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Karch and other fishermen in Viking Village insist some of the federal regulations threaten their livelihoods. The Act was first enacted in 1976. It was reauthorized in 1996, and again in 2006. It creates annual catch limits as well as directives on how to restock fish populations.

“If a stock of fish is deemed depleted, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires as part of the plan that a strategy to rebuild the stock is implemented. So part of that strategy are the management restrictions that are put on a fishery,” says John Tiedemann of Monmouth University. “At times, I think this just ain’t worth the headache anymore and I absolutely love fishing. I’ve done it my whole life. What am I gonna go do?” says Karch.

And commercial fishermen aren’t alone. Owners of recreational fishing party boats say some fishing regulations are hurting their bottom line. William Hammarstrom, Captain of Carolyn Ann III, says he’s losing money, because many of his regular customers aren’t regulars anymore. “It’s not just about fisherman being able to catch fish and make his or her livelihood but it’s all the maritime businesses that go along with fishing,” says Tiedemann. Two bills, introduced by New Jersey congressmen, would apply flexibility to some of the regulations. That’s something Michael Karch says he and other fishermen are depending on.