Recreational Fishing to Benefit from Magnuson-Stevens Re-Authorization
Well it's about time.
The free dinners and piles of favors must be running high in Washington as members of the House wrangle to obtain benefits for their powerful fishing constituencies. It's no secret that fishing in all its forms is big business, especially in Florida. The money generated by recreational and commercial segments fuels many ancillary businesses and provides much-needed blue-collar jobs.
But keeping the line between those two distinct halves of the fishing game has been a contentious tug-of-war for many years now. Nowhere is that line more clearly depicted than in the Red Snapper fishery in five Gulf states. The primary statute governing that and other key fisheries is the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which has been under fire from several sides since its implementation in 1976.
Its original stated intentions were:
- Prevent overfishing
- Rebuild overfished stocks
- Increase long-term economic and social benefits
- Ensure a safe and sustainable supply of seafood
It also extended U.S. fishing territory from 12 miles out to 200 miles out - a huge move at the time.
Recreational and commercial interests have battled over benefits since 1976, and the fight goes on. The article below, as published by The Billfish Foundation, tells the latest chapter of the story.
New Bill in the House Reignites Magnuson Story
Washington (June 2, 2015) - A coalition of organizations representing the saltwater recreational fishing and boating community congratulated the U.S. House of Representatives on its passage of H.R. 1335, a bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primary statute governing the nation's marine fisheries.
"The House action recognizes the increasing popularity of saltwater recreational fishing, which contributes $70 billion annually to the nation's economy and supports 454,000 jobs in every type of business from marinas, tackle shops and boat dealerships to restaurants, motels and clothing stores," said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. "While H.R. 1335 isn't perfect, it goes a long way toward addressing the priorities of the recreational fishing community."
The House-passed measure, Angers said, reflects many of the recommendations of the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, also known as the Morris-Deal Commission named after co-chairs Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boats.
"The Morris-Deal Commission described six priorities for the future of saltwater recreational fisheries management," said Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. "The House action advances many of these priorities, and we look forward to continuing to advance the interests of the nation's 11 million saltwater anglers as the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization process continues moving forward in this Congress."
Provisions in H.R. 1335 supported by the recreational fishing community include:
Promoting a more transparent and science-based review of fishery allocations;
Helping ensure that important fisheries aren't closed unnecessarily by providing limited exceptions for annual catch limits;
Improving the accuracy of fish stock information through greater involvement by the states and incorporating data collected by anglers themselves.
In addition, during consideration on the House floor, an amendment by Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) was added that gives NOAA Fisheries the authority to implement management practices better tailored to the nature of recreational fishing.
"Rep. Wittman's amendment addresses one of the key priorities of the Morris-Deal Commission - adopting a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management," said Mike Nussman, President and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. "This provision will promote the consideration of management approaches that fit the interests of recreational anglers, as opposed to the current approach of applying a commercial fisheries management model onto the nation's 11 million anglers."
In addition, the recreational fishing community supports the inclusion of an amendment by the lead sponsor of H.R. 1335, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), to better incorporate data collected by anglers into management.
"America's saltwater anglers owe a special debt of gratitude to the leadership of House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and the legislation's prime sponsor, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)," noted Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation. "Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus Vice-Chair Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) must also be commended for his leadership in ensuring marine fisheries are fairly allocated to maximize the benefits provided to our nation."
Red Snapper Management by States Withdrawn
An amendment offered by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) to transfer management of Gulf of Mexico red snapper to the five Gulf States was not advanced. It was withdrawn by the amendment sponsor after Chairman Bishop agreed to full committee action to address the Graves legislation.
"The chief fisheries management officials in all five Gulf states have recognized what every red snapper angler in the Gulf already knows -- that Gulf red snapper management is badly in need of an overhaul," said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. "We deeply appreciate Rep. Graves' leadership in working to transfer Gulf red snapper management to the states, which are best suited to the job."
"There are numerous positive provisions in H.R. 1335 that will ensure the nation's anglers have access to healthy and sustainable fisheries," said Jim D'Onofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. "Recreational fishing is finally receiving long overdue recognition in the nation's law governing saltwater fishing."
"We applaud the House for recognizing that recreational fishing has cultural and economic needs that differ from that of the commercial fishing industry," said Thom Dammrich, president of National Marine Manufacturers Association. "Passage of this legislation is a big step in the right direction for anglers, for boaters -- and for the local businesses that depend on them."
The Recreational Saltwater Fishing Coalition includes American Sportfishing Association, The Billfish Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Recreational Fishing Alliance and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Originally published on The Billfish Foundation website.