The recreational boating industry focused its message on saltwater fishing regulation during a panel discussion with two U.S. senators last week in Alaska, although the lawmakers seemed conflicted about when a change in legislation will occur.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, joined panelists Aug. 20 at the Kenai River Classic Roundtable in a discussion about recreational fishing and the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
The recreational fishing and boating industry has maintained that the legislation clearly focuses on the commercial fishing industry and should grow to specifically address the recreational fishing industry’s needs.
“It was a pleasure to see many of the leaders in the recreational boating and fishing community come together to speak with one voice before two U.S. senators,”Yamaha Marine Group manager of government relations Martin Peters told Trade Only Today.
Peters and Yamaha president Ben Speciale participated in the event; Phil Dyskow, past president of Yamaha Marine, moderated the roundtable. Yamaha sponsors the event with the Kenai River Sportfishing Association and in conjunction with the Kenai River Classic.
“A message of unity is as valuable as any in the battle to assure the recreational industry is recognized in the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act,”Peters said. “In the past there were too many different agendas from organizations that are basically seeking the same goal.”
Murkowski, Alaska’s senior senator, and Begich, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard, agreed that there must be a balance struck between commercial interests and recreational interests in the upcoming reauthorization, Peters said.
“The senators also support the idea of a national recreational fishing policy, which will hopefully be acted on by the National Marine Fisheries Service,”Peters said.
“Senator Murkowski and Senator Begich understand fisheries because their state depends upon both commercial and recreational anglers,”Peters said. “Our task as an industry is to make sure other members of Congress understand the economic impact of recreational fishing, not just on coastal communities, but on every state in the U.S. Everyone in the industry — dealers, boatbuilders and suppliers — have to work to make this happen.”
The lack of a recreational policy has created “crisis conditions”throughout the nation, Dyskow said at the event, according to the Alaska Journal of Commerce.
To resolve the issues that have developed and balance the user groups, Dyskow said, a national recreational fishing policy needs to be developed.
In Washington, D.C., lawmakers have completed the second draft of a reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Begich expressed optimism that Congress will finish work on the MSA by year’s end.
“I’m looking forward to trying to get this thing done before the end of the year,”he said. “It’s going to be tough …but we’re going to try to push.”
However, Murkowski said she doubts that it will be possible to finish the reauthorization this year. She wants it to be done correctly because lawmakers won’t get another chance at the law for a while.
“We’re not going to see passage of Magnuson-Stevens in this Congress,”she said.“But what we can do, what we must do is use this time to develop the good strong policies going forward so that we do have a balanced and a proportional Magnuson-Stevens that takes us well into the future.”
Both lawmakers said it will be rapidly reintroduced in January if it does not pass by the end of the year.