Recreational anglers want reasonable access and quality fishing, not to maximize their take.
That was the position of Dr. Larry McKinney, one of four scholars from the scientific community to testify before the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard on Tuesday.
Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, held the final of four hearings to discuss reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the law that provides guidelines for federal saltwater fishing and fish stock management.
“Anglers simply want reasonable access and quality fishing, not maximizing their take,” McKinney said in his testimony.
“Management of recreationally based fisheries cannot be accomplished by modifying management tools largely developed for commercial fisheries,” said McKinney, who is director of the Texas A&M University Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. “My point is not to diminish the importance of commercial fisheries nor the effective management tools now in place because of the MSA, which have been key to assuring their sustainable future.
“My request is that recreational fisheries have their own similarly effective and appropriate federal framework to assure their future,” McKinney said. “That framework is not in the current one-size-fits-all fisheries management paradigm to which we are now confined.”
Others testifying included Dr. Ray Hilborn, a professor at the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences; Karl Haflinger, founder and president of Sea State Inc.; and Dr. Michael Jones, a professor at the Michigan State University Quantitative Fisheries Center. The full hearing can be accessed here.
“The major threats to U.S. fish stock and marine ecosystem biodiversity are now ocean acidification, warming temperatures, degraded coastal habitats, exotic species, land based runoff and pollution,” Hilborn said during his testimony. “Overfishing remains a concern for a limited number of stocks but should not continue to be the most important concern for U.S. federal fisheries policy.”
McKinney was chairman of the Morris-Deal Commission Working Group, which ultimately produced the Morris-Deal Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy.
“The sentiment of the day was simply one-size-fits-all management doesn’t work,” Angers told Trade Only Today. “Every witness testified to that in their own words — from their own learned experiences, [and] from their own regions and around the country.
“Every hearing this Congress has carried that theme,” Angers added. “We are hopeful about legislative next steps that will best serve the resource and our industry.”
The hearings come as the industry is supporting the “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act, or Modern Fish Act, which was introduced in both chambers of Congress earlier this year as S. 1520 and H.R. 2023.
The bipartisan bill is based on recommendations gleaned from the Morris-Deal Commission, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
The NMMA, the CSA and other fishing associations, including the American Sportfishing Association and the Coastal Conservation Association, have joined with companies such as Yamaha Marine to promote the bill through a social media and ad campaign.
The bill is expected to be marked up in the coming week or two.