A coalition of boating and recreational fishing associations praised the introduction of a bill that addresses critical challenges facing saltwater recreational fishing at the federal level.
Led by Congressmen Garret Graves (R-La.), Gene Green (D-Texas), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.), the “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017” (Modern Fish Act) would improve public access to America’s federal waters, promote conservation of our natural marine resources and spur economic growth, the groups said in a statement.
The coalition of groups supporting the Modern Fish Act includes American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, The Billfish Foundation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
“On behalf of America’s 11 million saltwater anglers, we thank Congressmen Graves, Green, Webster and Wittman for championing this legislation to modernize federal recreational fishing management,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “For decades, the recreational fishing community has been subjected to antiquated federal policies not designed to manage recreational fishing. The time is now to update these policies so families can fully enjoy our nation’s remarkable marine resources and continue a proud American tradition on the water.”
The Modern Fish Act addresses many of the recreational fishing community’s priorities including allowing alternative management for recreational fishing, reexamining fisheries allocations, smartly rebuilding fishery stocks, establishing exemptions where annual catch limits don’t fit 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.
“We applaud the introduction of the Modern Fish Act in the House and the efforts of Rep. Graves and his colleagues to modernize the federal regulations governing access to the public’s natural resources by boaters and anglers,” said NMMA President Thom Dammrich. “We appreciate the Congressmen’s support for better management of our recreational fisheries that will bring federal management into the 21st century.”
“Getting more Americans outdoors and enjoying our wonderful natural treasures, including in saltwater spaces, requires updating and modernizing federal management approaches,” said Mike Nussman, president of the American Sportfishing Association. “The Modern Fish Act addresses the core issues within federal saltwater fisheries management that are limiting the public’s ability to enjoy saltwater recreational fishing, and will help maximize the economic, social and conservation benefits that recreational fishing provides to the nation.”
“This legislation reflects the vision and commitment of the recreational angling community to work with Congress and NOAA to provide quality angling opportunities for all stakeholders,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “We commend Congressmen Graves, Green, Webster and Wittman for providing a pathway to better management of America’s marine fisheries in the future.”
“For decades in federal fisheries management, recreational fishing was always an afterthought,” explained Jim Donofrio executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. “The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act introduced by Congressman Graves and his colleagues finally addresses the specific needs of the recreational fishing community; stands to bring parity to fisheries management and will get anglers back on the water.”
The commercial fishing industry, on the other hand, is voicing concerns about the bill. In a statement, the Seafood Harvesters of America said it will "hamstring federal regional fishery councils’ ability to manage the fishery sector and most species, while also limiting the ability to innovate new solutions to overfishing."
“We support the bill sponsors’ effort to obtain additional, more accurate and real-time data on our fisheries and in particular, the recreational sector, which will help better manage our fisheries," said Seafood Harvesters of America Executive Director Kevin Wheeler. "However, this bill would fundamentally exempt the recreational fishing community from adhering to the basic conservation standards that have been central to the rebuilding of many of our fish stocks. Waiting for fisheries to be overfished before we act led to stock collapses in the past and created economic hardship for the entire fishing industry. We can’t afford to take that route again. Doing so would devastate not only the fisheries themselves, but would have enormous economic impact on the commercial sectors that harvest, process, market, and sell seafood across the nation. While not engaged in the drafting of this legislation, we look forward to working with Congress, NOAA and the fishing community to ensure that we have accountability in both the commercial and recreational sectors so that our fisheries can be a renewable resource for the enjoyment of all Americans.”