William J. Clinton photo

Statement on Signing the Sustainable Fisheries Act

October 11, 1996

Today I have signed into law S. 39, the "Sustainable Fisheries Act." This Act represents a bipartisan effort to address the problems facing our Nation's fisheries, both commercial and recreational, and will greatly improve the future management of important fishery resources. I am delighted that the legislation addresses many of the conservation and management issues identified by my Administration's proposal of 1994.

Most important are new measures to prevent our fish stocks from being overfished and to ensure that already depressed stocks are rebuilt to levels that produce maximum sustainable yields from the fisheries. The Act includes a new national standard to minimize the unintentional catch of nontarget fish. The long-term importance of habitat to fish stocks is highlighted by the Act's requirement that essential fish habitats be identified in each fishery management plan.

The establishment of user fees for individual fishing quota and community development quota programs is a step in the direction of ensuring some repayment for the commercial use of this national resource. By refocusing management goals and mandating tighter control over the factors affecting fish stocks, this Act brings the Nation closer to the vast long-term benefits of sustainable fisheries.

I am, however, disappointed that the Congress chose to include in the Act several objectionable provisions. A number of provisions require specific management actions in specific fisheries or areas. The regional fishery management councils are the proper forum for recommending specific fishery management actions to the Department of Commerce. Those who use and enjoy our fishery resources should be fully involved in the management of these stocks.

Section 105(b)(2) directs the Secretary of State, in cooperation with the Secretary of Commerce, to seek to secure international agreements on the subject of bycatch reduction. Under our Constitution, it is the President who articulates the Nation's foreign policy and who determines the timing and subject matter of our negotiations with foreign nations. Accordingly, in keeping with past practice, I shall treat this provision as advisory, not mandatory.

The prohibition in section 109(i) on the Secretary of Commerce's ability to repeal a fishery management plan without approval by a vote of three-quarters of the Fishery Management Council raises serious concerns under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. I am directing the Secretary of Commerce to treat this provision as advisory, not mandatory.

Section 107 does not provide adequate protections against conflicts of interest on the part of members of the fishery management councils. A council member will be able to vote in many situations where the member could derive a significant financial gain from the matter. Further, the conflict provisions will not be consistent with other Government-wide conflict laws.

Successful implementation of S. 39 will require the full cooperation of Federal, State, and Tribal governments, the fishing industry, the fishery management councils, the conservation community, and the Congress. My Administration is committed to doing its part.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON

The White House, October 11, 1996.

NOTE: S. 39, approved October 11, was assigned Public Law No. 104-297.

William J. Clinton, Statement on Signing the Sustainable Fisheries Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/221908

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