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NMSA Reauthorization

Current status

On July 24, 2008, the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans held a legislative hearing on H.R. 6537, a bill supporting the reauthorization and strengthening of the NMSA.  The “Sanctuary Enhancement Act of 2008,” if passed, would not only reauthorize the NMSA, but repeal the limitation on new sanctuary designations, expand certain prohibitions, and increase law enforcement authority for marine sanctuaries.  To see all the changes discussed, read the full bill. Please visit the subcommittee’s website for more information and all testimony for the hearing.

Congress last reauthorized the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) in November 2000 (Public Law 106-513), authorizing appropriations for the law through the end of fiscal year 2005.

On November 3, 2007, the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans of the House Committee on Natural Resources held a field hearing on NMSA reauthorization in Santa Barbara, CA. William Douros, West Coast Regional Director for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, testified on behalf of NOAA . Visit the subcommittee’s website for links to all of the testimony for this hearing.

On June 18, 2008, the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans of the House Committee on Natural Resources held another hearing on NMSA reauthorization in Washington, DC. Jack Dunnigan, Assistant Administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service, testified on behalf of NOAA . Visit the subcommittee’s website for links to all of the testimony for this hearing.

About reauthorization

In addition to providing authority to designate and manage national marine sanctuaries, the NMSA also “authorizes” certain annual funding levels for NOAA to implement the Act. Since the authorization of funding is given in 5-year increments, the NMSA must be “reauthorized” every five years, or so. The NMSA was first enacted in 1972 (P.L. 92-532) and has been amended and reauthorized six times: in 1980 (P.L. 96-332), 1984 (P.L. 98-498) , 1988 (Title II of P.L. 100-627), 1992 (P.L. 102-587), 1996 (P.L. 104-283), and 2000 (P.L. 106-513).

The last time the NMSA was reauthorized was in November 2000, when Congress authorized funds through fiscal year 2005 (ended on September 30, 2005). It is important to understand, however, that expiration of this authorization does not mean the authority to designate and manage national marine sanctuaries goes away. Nor does it mean funding for implementation of the NMSA ends. In fact, the NMSP received Congressional funding for implementation of the NMSA for fiscal years 2006 and 2007, despite the expired authorization. Since the NMSA was last authorized, the NMSP now manages one new sanctuary and a Marine National Monument, the largest area of marine conservation on earth and added more than 150,000 square miles of protected waters into the system.

Still, Congress must reauthorize the NMSA as soon as possible to ensure it remains relevant and adapts to the ever-changing circumstances of marine resource management.

For more information about reauthorization and useful materials

Link to current version of the NMSA - http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/about/legislation/welcome.html

Important websites-

House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans

Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard

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