The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Monday to reauthorize the primary statute governing marine fisheries with language that would include and support recreational anglers.
A coalition of organizations representing the saltwater recreational fishing and boating community praised the House on its passage of H.R. 1335, which would reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
“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,” Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers said in a statement. “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 for its co-chairmen, 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 the bill that the recreational fishing community supports 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.
During consideration on the House floor, an amendment by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus co-chairman Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., was added that gives National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 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.”
The recreational fishing community also 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.
An amendment offered by Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., to transfer management of Gulf of Mexico red snapper to the five Gulf States was withdrawn by the amendment sponsor after U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, agreed to full committee action to address the Graves legislation.
“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 the 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.”