Recreational Fishing Alliance honors Florida congressman

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Gulf Coast fishermen and their families from Florida’s 2nd Congressional District will gather today in Panama City to present U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., with the 2012 Fishing Champion award for his support of coastal fishermen.

Southerland will receive an award for being a champion of the fishing industry, Recreational Fishing Alliance executive director Jim Donofrio said in a statement.

"Mr. Southerland's honesty, integrity and candor have been welcomed traits in the fisheries debate in Washington, D.C., especially in the face of some very tough opposition from the radical zealots who would prefer to trample on America's public access rights to healthy and sustainable natural resources," Donofrio said.

The award will be given at a fish fry that will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Capt. Anderson's Marina at 5550 N. Lagoon Drive.

Southerland joined a coalition of seven Gulf Coast lawmakers in urging the Department of Justice to adhere to the Restore Act's payment structure for BP fines collected as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The letter, addressed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, comes amid recent news reports that BP and the Department of Justice might be trying to get around the legislation, which directs millions and possibly billions of dollars in oil spill fines to the Gulf Coast.

"The Restore Act is the result of a collaborative effort that included the communities hardest hit by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," Southerland said in the statement. "To withhold justice from the people who live along the Gulf Coast and endured the economic nightmare of this disaster would be a blatant violation of the role of government. I believe that fine monies should be processed through the Clean Water Act, as was approved by Congress and signed into law by the president."

On Tuesday the RFA state chapter in Jacksonville will host an anglers’ rally with U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., starting at 6:30 p.m. The event is being held at Sneakers Grille, 8133 Pointe Meadow Drive, in Jacksonville and is open to the public.

Crenshaw and Southerland are co-sponsors of the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act, which the RFA said was introduced to deal with restrictive rebuilding deadlines and rigid annual catch limits and accountability measures and to ensure that the federal government was using the most up-to-date science and recreational data collection.

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