NMMA supports Great Lakes restoration bills

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Legislation was introduced last week in the U.S. Senate that focused on the restoration, management and conservation of Great Lakes fisheries.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced two bills that the National Marine Manufacturers Association praised.

Nearly 70 percent of boat outings on the Great Lakes involve an element of fishing, the NMMA said.

“The Great Lakes and recreational boating industry need improved infrastructure and access, and modernized systems and services in place that will strengthen public lands and waterways, contributing to lasting outdoor recreation experiences for visitors,” NMMA vice president of federal and legal affairs Nicole Vasilaros said in a statement.

“The recreational boating industry in the Great Lakes states has a total economic impact of $36.4 billion annually, supporting more than 7,100 businesses, most of which are small to medium-sized,” Vasilaros added. “Creating a 21st century infrastructure system in the Great Lakes is the first step in ensuring the region’s long-term vitality and maximizing its potential economic impact on the local communities and U.S.”

The Great Lakes Aquatic Connectivity and Infrastructure Program Act (S. 1332) would improve Great Lakes fisheries and encourage habitat restoration by repairing and replacing aging dams, culverts and roads.

The NMMA said there are thousands of these structures across the Great Lakes Basin that inhibit the movement of fish populations. Great Lakes states and tribal governments will be able to recommend grant projects to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand fish access to waterways or prevent the spread of invasive species.

The Great Lakes Mass Marking Program Act (S. 1331) would make scientific technology available to track and monitor the health of fisheries in the Great Lakes.

It would be used to make decisions to support and rehabilitate sport fish populations in the basin. This program was initiated in the Great Lakes on a limited scale in 2010 and would be fully established in statute under this legislation.

“Our Great Lakes economy depends on tourism, including fishing and boating,” Stabenow in said a statement. “We need to invest more to protect and restore our fisheries so that more people in Michigan and across the country can enjoy our amazing lakes and waterways and world-class opportunities for recreational and sport fishing.”

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