The U.S. House of Representatives votes on the Modern Fish Act today, and the Senate is moving forward with similar legislation.
The bills would change the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the law that governs federal saltwater fisheries management, to treat recreational fishing differently than commercial fishing. To date, they have been managed as the same.
"Today is a great day for the recreational fishing and boating community,” Jeff Angers, Center for Sportfishing Policy president, told Trade Only Today. “As thousands of our friends gather in Orlando for ICAST [International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades], the U.S. House is preparing to take a major vote this afternoon to improve federal fisheries management.
“Later today, the House will debate and vote on H.R. 200, a bipartisan bill that includes the Modern Fish Act and seeks to add more appropriate management tools for recreational fisheries,” Angers said. “We are hopeful that the House will take us one step closer to better fisheries management with today’s vote.”
The vote is supposed to take place around 3 p.m., according to American Sportfishing Association president Glenn Hughes.
Advocates say the need for different rules became apparent in the past decade as powerful engines, integrated technology and navigational equipment have increased recreational access to offshore fishing, creating a vibrant industry.
The Modern Fish Act takes several recommendations from the Morris-Deal Commission, named for co-chairs Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boat Group. That report, issued in 2014, made six recommendations for treating recreational anglers differently than commercial fishermen.
The fundamental challenge in federal fisheries management is that it was designed to manage large-scale industrial fisheries. The main issues addressed in the Modern Fish Act are allocation, exempted fishing permits and limited-access privilege programs.
The Magnuson-Stevens revisions are made to the “requirements for fishery management plans for overfished fisheries and catch limit requirements, including by authorizing Regional Fishery Management Councils to consider changes in an ecosystem and the economic needs of the fishing communities when establishing the limits,” states the bill summary.
Advocates urge industry stakeholders to reach out to members of Congress to voice support as the companion bill makes its way to the Senate floor.