Washington rally supports ‘right to fish’

WASHINGTON – More than 20 federal lawmakers joined several thousand fishermen near to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in a three-hour rally supporting national fisheries reform, according to a release from the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), which helped organize the rally.

Reports estimated the attendance at between 3,000 and 5,000, including representatives of both the recreational and commercial fishing sectors. The protesters were united in their opposition to the federal fishing requirements contained in the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA).

“The nation’s primary fishing law helped fishermen when it was enacted in 1976 by eliminating foreign fishing,” the RFA said in its release, “but during reauthorizations in 1996 and 2006, new language has mandated rebuilding fish populations under arbitrary timetables resulting in the closure of many healthy and rebuilt fisheries.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), lead sponsor of Senate Bill 1255, the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act, gave an opening address in which he said MSA as currently written denies fishermen access to healthy and rebuilding stocks due to arbitrary, ‘time-specific’ deadlines.

The House also has a bill related to fisheries reform, known as the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act (HR 1584), which currently has 29 co-sponsors.

Other legislators in attendance included Sen. George LeMieux (R-FL), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), and Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), the newest member of the Senate.

The RFA said it will continue to lobby to support the two coastal bills going forward.

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