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ABC 2018: Modern Fish Act a hot topic at American Boating Congress

WASHINGTON D.C. — Changing rules around saltwater fishing in federal waters is the top priority for the boating industry at this year’s American Boating Congress.

Members of the boating industry met with members of Congress on Thursday to advocate on behalf of their interests, and fishing was the top priority.

“Magnuson Stevens is working OK for commercial fishing now,” said George Cooper, partner with Forest Tate Partners at a workshop to bring ABC attendees up to speed. “Environmental groups would love to let it sit as it is. That is not our case, and I think we’ve made that case very well on Capitol Hill.”

The Modern Fish Act, a bill that has moved through committees in both the House and the Senate, would amend the Magnuson Stevens Act to differentiate between commercial and recreational anglers in federally-managed saltwater.

The bill is expected to make it to the House and Senate floor in June.

The goal is to improve angler harvest data, said Mike Leonard, conservation director for the American Sportfishing Association.

“We’re trying to improve the data system we have to get better estimates on how many fish are out there, and how many we’re catching,” said Leonard.

It would also require reviews of how the fish is allocated, and differentiate between how commercial and recreational fishing is handled.

“A lot of these allocations were set in the 1980s,” said Leonard. “Given all the changes in society, fisheries, and science, how we’re allocating this fishery is based on ideas from the 1980s. It seems crazy. We have bigger, faster boats, technology, electronics and more people are going offshore fishing as a result.”

The Center for Sportfishing Policy had more members fly in to its annual “Center Focus on Washington,” and the National Marine Manufacturers Association were arming members with information to bring to members of Congress to help get the bill across the finish line.

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