Local commercial fishing companies are part of a national coalition backing changes to federal fisheries law.
The law, known as the Magnuson-Stevens Act, has regulated marine fisheries across the country since 1976.
If a stock is being overfished, regional fishery management councils are required to rebuild the species within 10 years. However, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a partisan bill, H.R. 200, with largely Republican support that would scrap that rule.
"The 10-year rebuilding timeline was a completely arbitrary number; it was not based on science, it wasn’t based on biology, anything like that. It was just a random number that was picked," Meghan Lapp, spokeswoman for Rhode Island-based Seafreeze Ltd., said.
Lapp said the company, along with others a part of the National Caolition for Fishing Communities, supports the bill because councils need more flexibility when developing rebuilding plans.
"(The councils) can take into consideration other factors, environmental factors, predator-prey relationships, etc.," she said. "So, it’s actually more scientifically based than the previous version of Magnuson."
Lapp said that flexibility could also help regional managers set better annual catch limits.
However, environmentalists worry looser standards could reverse progress on rebuilt stocks and increase the risk of overfishing.
The U.S. Senate has yet to pass its reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.