The House of Representatives is set to take final action on passage of the "Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act." Voted out of the House Natural Resources Committee on May 29th, HR 4742 was introduced by committee Chair Doc Hastings (R-WA) in an effort to improve and strengthen many of the provisions of the current Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) said if passed in both the House and Senate as written the bill would ensure good access to rebuilt stocks while maintaining conservation and access to rebuilding fish stocks.
"Simply put, it's a good bill," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio.
Key components of the legislation came about as a result of RFA's ardent political action in Washington over the past 7 years in support of additional management flexibility and access to healthy fish stocks. Bipartisan amendments offered by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) respectively to restrict trading of fish allocation within the commercial sector while initiating improvements to recreational fishing data collected by NOAA Fisheries were supported by members of the committee.
Additional language in the Hastings bill would address annual catch limits and accountability measures in the recreational sector, while providing management latitude in deadlines for rebuilding fish stocks. Donofrio said the bill would be a big win for recreational anglers who have been denied access to fish stocks like red snapper and black sea bass, and called opposition by hardline preservationists one-sided.
"Groups like Environmental Defense Fund, Pew Environment Group, Oceana and Ocean Conservancy hate this bill because it would allow America's fishermen to continue fishing as stocks rebound, but that's precisely what the Magnuson Stevens Act was originally designed to do," Donofrio said. "Having healthy fish stocks without being allowed sustainable access does not make for a successful law."
RFA and other state, regional and national fishing groups and trade organizations have pushed for 7 years to see sensible amendments to the federal fisheries law to provide a better balance of commerce and conservation, leading to a pair of national rallies in Washington DC, numerous Committee hearings, and ultimately a comprehensive House bill to address stakeholder concerns. Donofrio says Hastings' HR 4742 is a piece of legislation that will help finally get America's fishermen fishing again.
"When the House passes this bill, I just hope the U.S. Senate doesn't fumble away this golden opportunity to finally address what our American fishermen have been pleading for during the past 7 years," he said.
Donofrio said his organization has grown concerned about a new undercurrent within the conservation community which has actively been demonizing those in the sportfishing industry including for-hire captains, tackle shop owners and manufacturers, even fishing publications which feature fishing and boating advertisements.
"Groups like Environmental Defense Fund are hoping to divide the recreational fishing community by using this new anti-industry message, trying to isolate members of the for-hire sector or tackle industry," Donofrio said. "Private anglers are being manipulated into thinking that buying rod and reel or supporting your local tackle shop is bad, or that booking a trip aboard a party or charter boat is in some way evil."
"At the end of the day, HR 4742 is a jobs bill, and recreational fishermen everywhere should be proud of the contributions they make to our local economy" Donofrio said. "It's a bill that supports American fishermen and conserves American fish, and it will help bring back a uniquely American recreational boating and fishing industry that has been under attack by these preservationists in recent years."
Click here to read RFA perspective as to why HR 4742 is 'good for fish, fishermen and the fishing industry' and read more RFA news at www.joinrfa.org/blog.