House Hearing on Marine Fisheries Bill a Critical Step as Legislative Clock Ticks

From The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership: Washington, DC - Marine fisheries and the14 million anglers that cast into the oceans each year are depending on Congress to pass an improved Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act this Congress. With less than 40 days left on the legislative calendar, the hearing held today by the House Resources Committee was a critical step in the process of reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Act, but time is of the essence. House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) emphasized the need to work together with all of the members of the committee to craft sound fisheries management policy before time runs out this Congress. “The clock is ticking on this Congress and the Resources Committee needs to move quickly after today’s hearing to come to consensus on a bill that can enact important changes in marine fisheries management,” noted Bob Hayes, of the Coastal Conservation Association. Hayes, who is also a co-chair of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s (TRCP) Marine Conservation Working Group (MCWG) continued, “Mr. Pombo’s and the Senate bill are very close in many ways. Recreational anglers will benefit if the final bill includes our groups’ four key SALT principles: Science must be used in marine fisheries conservation; Allocation of fisheries resources should be more equitable to recreational fishermen; Licensing saltwater anglers will improve data collection and increase funding; and Tackle used by fishermen should reduce bycatch and not damage habitat.” At the hearing, the Administration testified in favor of a national registry of recreational saltwater anglers so that they could implement the recommendations of the National Research Council to improve data collection. The Administration supported TRCP’s MCWG view that a state-based system would be more effective to: (1) determine the number of saltwater anglers in federal and state waters; (2) provide for uniform collection of standardized data on catch levels; (3) utilize and build upon the existing network of state fishing licensing systems for efficiency and ease of availability to the angling public, and (4) provide for federal access to such data to improve recreational harvest statistics. “The bill that moves forward in the House should establish a framework for a national registry of anglers that builds off of the effective saltwater fishing license programs managed by states,” stated the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies’ Eric Schwaab who is also a co-chair of the MCWG. “In addition, they should maintain an authorization of funding to help states without a saltwater fishing license to establish a program that will improve data collection on recreational fishing.” Another key aspect is the need to consider the economic impacts of recreational fishing in management decisions. Adequate fisheries resources must be available for recreational fishing and the current method for allocating harvest share relies on historical catch records that often under-represent sport anglers. “Recreational saltwater fishing has a $31.1 billion impact on the economy – much of which is felt directly by the local communities where the fishing occurs,” noted Carol Forthman, with the American Sportfishing Association. “Both commercial and recreational fishing interests deserve an equitable harvest allocation, so it is necessary for the House to include a provision that ensures that fisheries resources are allocated based on the economic impact of all fishing sectors.” The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Marine Conservation Working Group includes the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, American Sportfishing Association, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Berkley Conservation Institute, The Billfish Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association, Coastside Fishing Club, Environmental Defense, Izaak Walton League of America, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Sportfishing Association of California and United Anglers of Southern California. For additional information about the Magnuson-Stevens Act and more details on our SALT Principles, go to: www.angling4oceans.org