Anglers Journal TV host John Brownlee penned an op-ed in the Washington Examiner supporting changes to the nation’s marine fishery management laws that would take recreational anglers into account.
In mid-December the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources approved H.R. 200, a bill sponsored by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, amending the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Brownlee said. (Anglers Journal and Trade Only Today are owned by Active Interest Media.)
“While the vast majority of the public hails progress on the bill as long overdue, an unusual coalition of environmentalists and commercial fishing entities has roundly condemned it, feverishly depicting the bill as an attack on the oceans and a threat to the future of the nation’s marine resources,” Brownlee wrote in the opinion piece, which ran Monday.
“As much as detractors would like to employ hysterics and hyperbole to maintain the status quo, the provisions championed by the recreational angling community are not an attempt to roll back conservation-minded regulations,” Brownlee wrote. “They are the culmination of many years of work by a huge stakeholder group to address very real shortcomings in how the nation manages its marine fisheries.”
The fundamental challenge in current federal fisheries management law is that it was designed to manage large-scale industrial fisheries.
“The system breaks down when those same tools are shoehorned to apply to hundreds of thousands of recreational boats,” Brownlee said.
Annual catch limits were designed to weigh fish caught by a few commercial vessels in pounds when they returned to the docks. However, that system breaks down when applied to thousands of recreational fishing boats that catch a few fish each, he said.
Brownlee also touted the Modern Fish Act, introduced by Rep. Garrett Graves, R-La., which 24 legislators from both sides of the aisle sponsored.
Among the issues addressed in H.R. 200 are allocation, exempted fishing permits and limited access privilege programs.
The bill establishes “clear, objective criteria upon which allocation decisions can be based and requires periodic review of allocations in mixed-use fisheries in the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico,” Brownlee said.
The legislation would establish specific criteria to evaluate exempted fishing permit applications and formalize an expanded review process that requires greater regional stakeholder input on the merits of each permit application, Brownlee said.
H.R. 200 also would establish criteria for measuring programs that give away public fisheries to commercial harvesters or charter operators through limited access privilege programs (also known as catch shares) and require a study on the impacts of privatization before new programs can be established.
“We continue to be stuck with grossly outdated allocations that do not reflect current economic or demographic realities,” Brownlee said.