The recreational fishing and boating community is expressing collective disappointment after a saltwater fishing bill in the U.S. House of Representatives failed to address the community’s top priorities.
A reauthorization bill for the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act — the primary law governing U.S. marine fisheries management — did not include many of the top priorities of the recreational saltwater fishing industry.
Key stakeholders had hoped that more of the language in the Morris-Deal Commission report, A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries, would be included in a bill.
However, the bill brought by the House Natural Resources Committee last Thursday — the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act (H.R. 4742) — disappointed many in the recreational fishing and boating community. The committee is chaired by U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.)
“While we appreciate chairman Doc Hastings’ interest and efforts in Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization, we would like to have seen more done in this bill to address the needs of the recreational fishing community,” American Sportfishing Association president and CEO Mike Nussman said in a statement.
“This bill includes several provisions that we support, such as easing the strict implementation of annual catch limits and improving stock assessments for data-poor fisheries, but unfortunately our top priorities are not meaningfully addressed.”
“We were all disappointed, especially here, because we were hopeful this would get pushed a little bit further,” Mercury Marine spokesman Lee Gordon told Trade Only Today. “Unfortunately it seems like [some of the needs of the recreational fishing industry] got put on the back burner. We were cautiously optimistic that the election year wouldn’t factor in, but we’re hearing that played a huge role.”
Since its inception, the Magnuson-Stevens Act has focused primarily on saltwater commercial fishing, Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers has told Trade Only Today.
“In addition to overlooking the priorities of the Morris-Deal Commission, we are also disappointed that the federal management failure with red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico is not resolved in H.R. 4742,” Coastal Conservation Association president Patrick Murray said in a statement. “A comprehensive overhaul of red snapper management is the only way to get us out of this mess. It’s vital that Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization addresses this management train wreck by transferring Gulf red snapper management over to the states, which are much better equipped to successfully manage this important fishery.”
“In this reauthorization there was hope for everyone that more would be done last week to push forward and that more would be put forth from the Morris-Deal vision,” Jordan told Trade Only.
Brunswick Corp. president and chief operating officer Mark Schwabero praised the efforts by Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats president Scott Deal.
“Some of the leadership within the industry has really gotten involved on the next generation of legislation,” Schwabero told Trade Only. “The two principals — Johnny Morris and Scott Deal — have done a yeoman’s job of bringing the industry’s position forward to Congress. Next up will be continued activity from the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Center for Coastal Conservation and other groups to keep trying to push this forward and make something happen. Whether it gets through the cycle this year or during the next cycle of elections is always a question. But as an industry I think the Morris-Deal activity is a move northward.”
H.R. 4742 has cleared the House committee and awaits a floor vote. The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to unveil its Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization bill in the near future. With limited floor time before the November elections, many experts believe that full Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization might not occur until the next session of Congress.
“We understand that Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization likely has a long road ahead before a final bill gets signed into law, so we are hopeful that working with our friends in Congress we can get the recreational fishing and boating community’s priorities addressed,” Angers said in a statement.
“We’ve been waiting a long time to bring focus toward improving saltwater recreational fisheries management, and there’s too much at stake to let this reauthorization pass without making the necessary changes that will establish a management system that works for — not against — recreational fishermen.”