Reauthorization of fisheries bill one step closer

WASHINGTON, D.C. and NEW GRETNA, N.J. – In a move that is good news for the industry, the U.S. Senate passed S. 2012 yesterday to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, a law that governs the nation’s fisheries.

The bill is “something we can work with,” said Recreational Fishing Alliance Executive Director Jim Donofrio in an interview this morning, “but not the bill we want.” Ultimately, he believes it is a positive step forward, however, because the reauthorization is five years overdue, and the Senate bill, while far from ideal, does not include “the extreme amendments that the environmentalists wanted to put through.”

The corresponding House bill – H.R. 5018, the American Fisheries Management and Marine Life Protection Act, sponsored by Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.), Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) – is a “much better bill from our perspective,” Donofrio said. It passed the House Resources Committee last month and is awaiting a floor vote.

Within the House bill, the recreational fishing industry is defined in greater detail using suggestions made by RFA, something that would allow boat dealers and marinas federal protection in the case of a natural disaster like Katrina, much like the commercial fishing industry has received.

“That was our huge lobbying effort,” said Donofrio.

Now, RFA is hoping to have a version of the bill passed when the Congress returns from the fourth of July break.

“Time is of the essence; if we do not send a completed bill to President Bush this year, we’ll have to start the process all over again,” explained Chairman Pombo in a recent statement. “Our nation’s fisheries and fishermen need and deserve quick action and I will work with my colleagues in the House to pass H.R. 5018. Both bills share the same goals and are on the same track. I’m confident the House will be able to complete its work quickly and cooperate with the Senate in order to finish the process this year.”

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