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Recreational fishing leaders testify in U.S. Senate

By Center for Sportfishing Policy

On Sept. 12, U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing entitled “Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: Oversight of Fisheries Management Successes and Challenges.” The subcommittee heard from two panels of witnesses representing recreational, commercial and charter-for-hire fishermen.

This was the third hearing of a series focusing on America’s federal fisheries laws. Phil Faulkner, president of NauticStar Boats; Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance; and Chris Horton, fisheries program director for the Congressional Sportsmen¹s Foundation, represented recreational fishermen.

“The message we are bringing to Washington is simple: recreational anglers want fair and equitable access to America¹s public marine resources,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “Marine recreational fishing is one of America¹s oldest and most beloved pastimes that supports a $63 billion annual economic impact and 440,000 American jobs. Proper fisheries management is critical to our economy, our culture and the conservation of healthy marine resources for future generations.”

On July 10, Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), John Kennedy (R-La.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced the bipartisan Modern Fish Act (S. 1520) to address the challenges facing recreational fishermen in the federal fisheries management system. A companion bill, H.R. 2023, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on April 6, by Congressmen Garret Graves (R-La.), Gene Green (D-Texas), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.).

The bipartisan Modern Fish Act would finally recognize the differences between commercial and recreational fishing by allowing alternative management tools for recreational fishing that are proven in other jurisdictions; reexamining fisheries allocations; smartly rebuilding fish stocks, and improving recreational data collection. The bill aims to benefit fishing access and conservation by incorporating modern management approaches, science and technology to guide decision-making.

“Uncertainty about access, uncertainty about consistent fishing seasons, uncertainty about fisheries management will often discourage a potential angler from justifying an investment in purchasing a boat. Therefore, the market never reaches its potential,” said Phil Faulkner, president of NauticStar Boats and CSP partner. “Congress can provide balance and consistency to the long-ignored recreational fishing sector by modernizing recreational fisheries management by passing the Modern Fish Act.”

“The role that anglers play as conservationists and our dedication to having sustainable fisheries for the future is often misunderstood or even ignored,” said Chris Horton, fisheries program director for the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation. “It is important that the committee understand and appreciate that managing for better recreational fishing opportunities is not counterproductive to the conservation goals of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, as some may lead you to believe, but rather complimentary to the goal of sustainability and conservation of our marine resources.”

“Recreational fishing businesses are not confined to coastal regions but span nearly all 50 states,” said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. “Those businesses and jobs can be protected by giving anglers access to fisheries which in turn spur economic activity.”

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