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NOAA laments loss of Democratic senator in Magnuson reform

Recreational fishing industry advocates were dealt a blow when Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich failed to win re-election and that has added uncertainty to the process of allowing the industry a larger voice in legislative discussions.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told Fortune magazine in an article detailing the history of and turmoil around the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act that “it remains unclear if the administration will put forward a reauthorization bill” after Begich’s defeat.

“It is reasonable to assume that the recent election, including the loss of Senator Begich, has added uncertainty to the process,” NOAA said in a statement to Fortune.

Members of Congress are still circulating a draft of the new fisheries law, which was originally expected to be passed this month. It was last revised in 2006 and expired in September 2013.

Begich had partnered with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to work on the reauthorization before losing in the midterm elections. Speaking to Fortune in May, Begich had big plans for updating the fisheries law. He said that in the past the law not only ignored recreational fishing, but also subsistence fishing — an important issue in his state, in particular.

The recreational industry has created momentum in Congress to revise the law that governs saltwater fishing and catch limits, saying it focuses mostly on commercial fishing and does not take into account the 11 million Americans who fish for fun each year.

“This is a big deal to us,” Maverick Boat Co. president Scott Deal told Fortune. “And as is always the case, the forces that benefit inertia are going to do everything they can to keep it as low on the radar as possible. So we got together and said ‘Let’s get out in front of this.’ When you look at the actual jobs created and the recreational angler versus the commercial angler, it paints a very telling tale.”

Deal discussed the report created with Bass Pro Shops CEO Johnny Morris as part of the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, known in the industry as the Morris-Deal Commission.

Russell Dunn, who holds a position that NOAA created in 2010 devoted to recreational fishing policy, said policymakers had, through the years, proposed giving the act more of a focus on recreational fishing. But he says that those ideas “got lost in the bureaucracy.”

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