WASHINGTON — Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., opened the American Boating Congress by telling attendees that the work they do is of vital importance to the country.
“[You] are extraordinarily important to us as a country,” he said at an opening-day luncheon on Tuesday. “You are part of who we are as Americans.”
And in order to keep the recreational boating industry growing, the country needs fisheries management based on reason and sound science, he added.
Wittman discussed a bill he introduced this session called the Fishery Science Improvement Act, which would amend current law to ensure utilization of sound science in decision-making by federal agencies as they regulate fish stocks. The bill aims to prevent forcible, undue shutdowns of fisheries caused by incomplete data as agencies face imminent deadlines that current law imposes.
“This bill maintains the conservation standards intended to preserve our resources for future generations, but allows the time to do it right, ensuring our anglers can enjoy a day on the water and our businesses aren’t adversely affected,” Wittman said at the time the bill was introduced. “There are enormous benefits to the proper management of game species. We want to ensure that decisions made by the federal government are based on sound information, and in this case sound science and data.”
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in U.S. federal waters, and the bill would amend Magnuson-Stevens to ensure that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration utilizes proper science and data as it sets annual catch limits on fish stocks.
Catch limits originally set in the Magnuson-Stevens law aimed to prevent overfishing, based on scientific advice. The agency currently manages 528 stocks of fish and stock complexes, but only has stock assessments on 110 of them to make adequate decisions on regulation, Wittman noted.
A number of bills that address Magnuson-Stevens are expected to move forward in committee in the next week or so. Wittman said he hopes that they will then move to the full House of Representatives for a vote.
Also Tuesday, the Center for Coastal Conservation, a coalition of advocates for recreational fishing and boating, presented its inaugural Eddie Smith Manufacturer of the Year award to Kris Carroll, president of Grady-White Boats.
Smith, owner of Grady-White, is recognized as an industry leader in recreational fishing and coastal environment issues.
“Many of the managers and other employees at Grady-White are similarly dedicated to the long-term health of fisheries and coastal areas,” the company says on its website. “A Grady-White boat is truly a symbol of dedication to the best kind of future for our children, our fisheries and our waterways.”
In accepting the award, Carroll stressed her company’s commitment not just to building great boats, but also to delivering a great boating experience to customers, and that includes being at the forefront of conservation issues.
At the opening lunch, David Dickerson, the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s director of state government relations, discussed marine industry issues at the state level.
A luxury tax that had been threatened on boats in Maryland appears dead, he said, as does an increase in the gasoline sales tax. Ongoing issues the NMMA is monitoring include anchorage issues in Florida; a California copper antifouling paint bill; a proposal in California to eliminate the Boating and Waterways Department; a bill that would affect dealer licensing in Missouri; and several states that are looking at mandatory life jacket wear laws.
Additionally, the association is keeping on top of state issues related to the eventual sale of gasoline that is 15 percent ethanol and state taxes assessed on out-of-state companies, known as nexus.
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— Beth Rosenberg