VIDEO: Industry pushes for fishing reforms at roundtable

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Recreational fishing is a big business and its economic impact is equal to or greater than that of commercial fishing.

That was the message National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich and other industry stakeholders had for lawmakers in Alaska last week at a meeting to discuss saltwater recreational fishing regulations.

“It is time, perhaps past time, for the real economic importance of recreational fishing to be recognized alongside that of commercial fishing,”said Phil Dyskow, former Yamaha Marine president, who moderated the 2014 Kenai Classic Roundtable on National Recreational Fishing, which took place Aug. 20 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and co-chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Oceans Caucus, said it is important for Congress “to recognize it is in our best interest to make sure Americans have access to these recreational opportunities,”according to a transcript obtained by Trade Only Today.

“Part of the process that I’ve done over the last year plus on [the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act] is to make sure that all sides are heard; that we make sure we talk about commercial and we talk about sports and rec, and also I would add if I can, just a third element, and that’s the issue of subsistence, specifically for Alaska,”said U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who chairs the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, which is responsible for the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Industry advocates have been hoping to get language into the act, which governs all saltwater fishing, that specifically would include recreational fishing, instead of including all under the broad blanket of commercial fishing, as the act has traditionally done.

The Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, chaired by Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats president and co-founder Scott Deal, spent 2013 meeting and debating strategies to improve recreational fisheries management. In February the commission issued what it called “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.”

“Senators Murkowski and Begich understand fisheries because their state depends upon both commercial and recreational anglers,”Yamaha Marine Group government relations manager Martin Peters said in a statement. “Our task as an industry is to make sure all members of Congress understand the economic impact of recreational fishing, not just in coastal communities, but in every state in the U.S.Everyone in the industry — dealers, boatbuilders and suppliers—must work to make this happen.”