Conservationists and anglers are applauding the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation for advancing S. 396, the Billfish Conservation Act. The bill, introduced in February by U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), was adopted and reported favorably without amendment during an executive session on May 18.
The Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 banned the importation of all billfish caught by foreign fleets into the continental United States and, perhaps most importantly, set an example for other countries to pursue similar conservation efforts once thought impossible. However, questions arose over whether the same prohibitions on foreign-caught billfish imposed by the bill also applied to billfish caught commercially in Hawaii. If commercially caught billfish could be transported from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland, it would circumvent the intent of the conservation measure. S. 396 simply clarifies that billfish landed in Hawaii must be retained there.
“On behalf of America’s 11 million saltwater anglers, the Center for Sportfishing Policy commends the Senate Commerce Committee on advancing this important correction to the Billfish Conservation Act,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “With S. 396 crossing its first hurdle in the Senate, we are hopeful that Congress will act quickly to finally ensure that the United States stands firm as the leader in billfish conservation.”
Prior to the passage of the Billfish Conservation Act, the U.S. was the No. 1 importer of billfish in the world. U.S. calls for greater billfish conservation in international fishery management circles in the past were often met with skepticism, and disregarded. Implemented as originally intended, the law should make it easier for the U.S. to establish a greater leadership role for the international protection of billfish.
“IGFA is thankful to Senators Nelson, Rubio, Manchin and Moran and to the Senate Commerce Committee for approving this meaningful amendment to the Billfish Conservation Act,” said Rob Kramer, president of the International Game Fish Association. “Today’s action brings us one step closer to ensuring that these magnificent fish are properly protected under the original intent of the law.”
The coalition of groups supporting the Billfish Conservation Act includes American Sportfishing Association, The Billfish Foundation, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, OCEARCH and Wild Oceans.