Modern Fish Act passes Senate committee

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Modern Fish Act co-author Sen. Roger Wicker visited NauticStar, one of his constituents, at the Miami International Boat Show.

Modern Fish Act co-author Sen. Roger Wicker visited NauticStar, one of his constituents, at the Miami International Boat Show.

The Modern Fish Act has cleared another hurdle, having passed the Senate committee today.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation overwhelmingly approved the bill, which calls for updates to the Magnuson Stevens Act — the rule governing how recreational saltwater fisheries are managed.

The bipartisan bill, which was introduced in the Senate in July by Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., passed by a 23-5 vote today, said Brian Chandler, who handles public relations for the American Sportfishing Association.

The industry has coalesced around the issue, launching a campaign on social media that has increased momentum over the last several weeks.

Wicker understands that saltwater fishing affects places in his state that are not on the coast, said Center for Sportfishing Policy president Jeff Angers; NauticStar, one of his constituents, is close to Memphis.

“The stars are aligning for this Congress to reform federal fisheries management in a way that will properly recognize recreational fishing under our nation’s primary marine fishing law,” Angers told Trade Only Today on Monday.

The 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, identified six key recommendations in treating the recreational fishing industry separately from commercial fishing. (Read about the MSA’s history and original intentions here.)

“The bipartisan leadership on display today in the Senate Commerce Committee will not soon be forgotten by America’s 11 million saltwater recreational anglers,” said Angers in a statement. “We want to thank our many champions in Congress, particularly Sens. Wicker and Nelson, for recognizing the need for serious reforms to the broken federal fisheries management system. We look forward to working with congressional leaders in both chambers to get this legislation across the finish line.”

Watch Sen. Wicker praise the bipartisan action of the committee in recognizing that saltwater fishing affects more than just coastal regions.

The endeavor has seen unified support from major boating and fishing groups including the American Sportfishing Association, the Center for Sportfishing Policy, the Coastal Conservation Association, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Association, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Recreational Fishing Alliance, the Theadore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Billfish Foundation, and The International Game Fish Association.

“Today’s action by the Commerce Committee is further evidence that Congress recognizes the economic and societal impact that recreational saltwater fishing has on our nation,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association.

“There are 11 million saltwater anglers in the U.S. who have a $63 billion economic impact annually and generate 440,000 jobs. We applaud the Senate Commerce Committee for taking this important step and call for the full Senate to quickly take action on this legislation,” Nussman said.

“On behalf of the estimated 650,000 workers the recreational boating industry supports, we are eager to continue working with our allies in both chambers of Congress to get this important legislation to the president’s desk,” said NMMA president Thom Dammrich.

A companion bill introduced by Rep. Garrett Graves, R-La., was introduced in the House last April and cleared the Committee on Natural Resources in December. After that passage, advocates expressed the need to keep pushing the bill.

“We’re very happy … but the message we want to send is, it’s a piece of what needs to happen in order for us to improve access,” Martin Peters, senior manager of marine communications and government relations with Yamaha Marine, told Trade Only Today at the time. “We don’t want people to think we achieved something and then move on.

“The bipartisan spirit we are witnessing in this Committee is refreshing, and we look forward to final action by the full Senate and House,” said RFA president Jim Donofrio in the statement.


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