Modern Fish Act heading to White House

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The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday joined the U.S. Senate in passing the Modern Fish Act, something the recreational boating and fishing industries have called the first-ever sportfishing legislation.

The bill, officially known as the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017, has been in the works for over a year now. It has faced opposition from groups including restaurant workers and commercial fishing.

“It’s a great day for anglers and the recreational fishing industry,” Center for Sportfishing Policy president Jeff Angers told Trade Only Today. "As we head into the holidays, we can celebrate a win from Washington D.C. that will pave the way for a better future for saltwater fishing.”

Angers added that next year will bring new opportunities “for us to build on this momentum” with the implementation of Modern Fish and “next steps” on Capitol Hill.

“The Modern Fish Act is the most significant update to America’s saltwater fishing regulations in more than 40 years and the recreational fishing community couldn’t be more excited,” said Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, in a statement.

Morris and Maverick Boats President Scott Deal helped author a report in 2014 calling for changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the law that governs how saltwater fisheries are managed in federal waters. That list of recommendations has been adapted over the years, but still incorporated several of the original recommendations made by Morris and Deal in the Morris-Deal Commission.

“This historic accomplishment marks the first significant update to federal fisheries management in more than a decade and is a big step toward implementing science-based methods and improved data collection techniques for saltwater fishing decision making,” said National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich in the statement.

“This is truly a monumental achievement by the ASA and its members, our partner organizations, and anglers across the country,” added American Sportfishing Association president Glenn Hughes in a separate statement.

Despite the opposition from certain groups, the Senate unanimously passed the bipartisan legislation earlier this week. The Modern Fish Act, introduced by Sens. Wicker, R-Miss., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in July 2017, had support across the aisle from more than a dozen Senate co-sponsors representing coastal and non-coastal states.

The bill will allow National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration Fisheries managers to apply additional management tools, such as fishing mortality targets and harvest control rules. It also will require federal managers to explore other data sources, such as state-electronic reporting through smartphone apps.

It will also require the U.S. Comptroller General to conduct a study on the process of mixed allocation review by the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Regional Fishery Management Councils to Congress within a year of enactment.

The Modern Fish Act will also require the National Academies of Sciences to complete a study and provide recommendations on catch shares within two years of being enacted, which would include an assessment of the social, economic, and ecological effects of the program, considering each sector of a mixed-use fishery and related businesses, coastal communities and the environment.

That would also entail an assessment of any impacts to stakeholders in a mixed-use fishery caused by a limited access privilege program. That study would exclude the Pacific and North Pacific Regional Fishery Management Councils.

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