VIDEO: House panel holds hearing on fishery reform bills

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A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee held a hearing Tuesday on four marine fishery bills that would amend the law that governs saltwater fishing.

The House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a legislative hearing on the bills, which would amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, including the Modern Fish Act.

The subcommittee heard from seven witnesses from the recreational, commercial and charter-for-hire fishing sectors, as well as local, state and federal officials, including Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Chris Macaluso, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Marine Fisheries, represented recreational fishermen.

“Federal fisheries managers do a lot of guessing in regulating recreational fishing because federal data is lacking and outdated — and they reject or ignore real-time data provided by the states,” Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, said in a statement.

“America’s 11 million saltwater recreational anglers have experienced systematic reductions of opportunity to enjoy America’s marine resources due to the one-size-fits-all approach of federal management,” Angers said. “We are hopeful Congress will recognize that recreational fishing and commercial fishing are different endeavors which need to be managed differently.”

The agenda included H.R. 200, sponsored by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska; H.R. 2023 and H.R. 3588, sponsored by Rep. Garret Graves, R-La.; and a discussion draft, sponsored by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., as an alternative to H.R. 200.

On April 6 the bipartisan Modern Fish Act (H.R. 2023) was introduced in the House by Reps. Garret Graves, R-La.; Gene Green, D-Texas; Daniel Webster, R-Fla.; and Rob Wittman, R-Va., to address the challenges facing recreational fishermen in the federal fisheries management system.

On July 10 a companion bill, S. 1520, was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; John Kennedy, R-La.; and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Below is a video of the entire hearing.

The Modern Fish Act would seek to recognize the differences between commercial and recreational fishing by allowing alternative management tools, including re-examining fisheries allocations, rebuilding fish stocks and improving recreational data collection.

The bill aims to benefit fishing access and conservation by incorporating modern management approaches, science and technology to guide decision-making.

"Today I am more optimistic about the future of federal recreational fishing management than I have been at any other time in the last 10 years,” Macaluso, of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said in his written testimony.

“The bills under consideration today contain provisions that would help improve federal fisheries management for recreational fishing, potentially marking the first time in the history of the Magnuson-Stevens Act that the law specifically recognizes the vital role recreational fishing plays in our economy and identifies that recreational fishing is a fundamentally different activity than commercial fishing that requires a different management approach,” Macaluso said.

Martin Peters, senior manager of marine communications and government relations at Yamaha Marine Group, attended the hearing and was impressed by Macaluso's testimony.

"We are energized by the House subcommittee hearing and believe we are closer than we have ever been to seeing reform of MSA. It is gratifying to see that there seems to be consensus on the part of members that Congressman Young's HR 200 and Congressman Graves' Modern Fish Act can be melded into a single comprehensive document that will form the basis of House action on MSA."

The legislation discussed can be found here.   

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