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At the Helm: We’re all in fisheries reform together

By Tim Hennagir

A unified fishing and boating industry stands ready to take a huge step early this year in Washington when the Modern Fish Act moves through Congress. 

In mid-December, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources approved H.R. 200, a bill sponsored by Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) that amends the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to provide flexibility for fishery managers and stability for fishermen. 

This legislation addresses many of the challenges faced by recreational anglers, including allowing alternative management tools for recreational fishing, reexamining fisheries allocations 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. A coalition of organizations representing the saltwater recreational fishing and boating community, including the National Marine Manufacturing Association, endorsed H.R. 200 and highlighted the importance of incorporating saltwater recreational fishing management provisions into
the nation’s primary law governing federal fisheries management.

NMMA President Thom Dammrich recently told Boating Industry he’s confident the bill will get off the House floor and move to the Senate, where’s there’s strong bi-partisan support.

“We’ve got everyone working together, pulling on the same oar, and its working,” Dammrich said. “We probably have the best chance in decades in terms of providing increased access for saltwater fishermen.”

Through years of hard work, the priorities of the recreational fishing and boating community were identified and presented to federal policy makers by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management. This group is also referred to as the Morris-Deal Commission, named for co-chairs Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boat Group. In 2014, the Morris-Deal Commission released “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries,” which included six key policy changes to produce the full range of saltwater recreational fishing’s social, economic and conservation benefits to the nation.

“The importance of this legislation to the recreational fishing and boating community was made clear by tens of thousands of advocates who have made their voices heard by contacting their elected officials in recent months,” stated Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, in a news release issued shortly after the Modern Fish Act advanced in the House.

The need to revise the one-size-fits-all approach of the Magnuson-Stevens Act is abundantly clear and requires a cooperative approach. There are numerous signs this key industry issue is finally receiving the legislative attention it deserves, and progress will be made in the coming months.  

 

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