Sportfishing group opposes new catch limits

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By approving regulations that limit or possibly close numerous marine fisheries to recreational fishing despite a lack of scientific data, the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Council have "once again landed the federal fisheries management process in hot water with the sportfishing community," the American Sportfishing Association said in a statement.

The regulations, which require the Secretary of Commerce’s approval, could affect fishing practices and seasons for numerous stocks, such as dolphin, wahoo and dozens of species in the snapper-grouper complex.

The decision-making process is being driven by a Dec. 31 deadline for annual catch limits and accountability measures in the reauthorization of the 2006 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which the sportfishing community believes requires congressional action to amend, the ASA said.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., introduced the Fishery Science Improvement Act on June 22. The legislation, which has bipartisan support from 26 additional members of Congress, removes the requirement to implement annual catch limits on stocks for which there are inadequate data and there is no evidence of overfishing.

“The recreational fishing community isn’t against annual catch limits, per se, but we are against setting them based on guesswork,” ASA president and CEO Mike Nussman said in a statement. “Most of the annual catch limits that have been set in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico are based simply on recent landings, instead of the suite of fishery data needed for solid population assessment. Quality data should be used to determine the optimum amount of harvest that can be taken to allow for sustainable fishing.

“We hope Congress will pass this common-sense, bipartisan and simple solution before the end of the year,” he added. “This nation’s 24.7 million saltwater anglers and the $82.3 billion economy they support are depending on it.”

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