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Preserving access

By Jonathan Sweet

This article is found within the main article Navigating Washington.

It’s a pretty simple equation: the more access there is to the water, the more ability there is to go fishing, the more sense it makes for someone to buy a boat.

Yet it continues to become more difficult to get to the water for many people, for myriad reasons.

Fishing restrictions are particularly important. More than 46 million people participated in fishing in 2011, according to the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation. It’s easily the most common use of boats.

That’s why preserving those rights is so important, said Larry Innis, MRAA’s Washington representative.

“Water access is going to be one of our important issues,” Innis said. “We want to increase access to the waterways and promote access to the waterways.”

One of the key ways MRAA is focusing on the issue is by urging the Army Corps of Engineers to free up funds for dredging inland waterways and small harbors.

“It’s a very important thing to recreational boating and to fishing to have these small harbors and channels open,” Innis said.

Hearings started in the U.S. House in March on the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which regulates marine fisheries in the United States. Set for reauthorization this year, the act will continue to be an important issue for the industry.

Decisions about catch limits and other regulations need to be based on sound data, said Ben Speciale, president of Yamaha’s Marine Group.

“The lack of information is causing people to pass legislation that limits fishing, that is not logical,” he said. “Do we support conservation of fishing? The answer to that question is absolutely. It’s the livelihood of our sport. We just think it is very important to manage that with real scientific data.”

Access is an issue that needs to be constantly monitored, said Jim Currie, NMMA’s legislative director.

“We’re continually watching for efforts to curtail public access, and when we see anything like that or get wind of anything like that … we’ll go in and work the issue,” he said, citing the recent limits proposed for Biscayne National Park.

That proposal would have closed off a good portion of the park and not allowed fishing. The NMMA is working with Florida wildlife officials to reopen the discussion and craft a new, less restrictive policy.

Currie said the NMMA is also optimistic about Interior Secretary nominee Sally Jewell (president and CEO of REI) and her views toward public access.

“We’re very encouraged by the fact that the nominee for interior secretary does have a strong background of getting out herself and enjoying the public outdoors.”


Click here to read a Q&A with Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation on preserving fishing and water access for boaters.


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