Sportfishing Coalition Lauds Improvements to Fisheries Bill by House Resources Committee

WASHINGTON - A coalition of leading recreational angling and conservation organizations welcomed today’s action in the U.S. House of Representatives to advance an update of the country’s most important marine fisheries law. The House Resources Committee voted to send H.R. 5018, the American Fisheries Management and Marine Life Protection Act, to the full House. The action moves efforts to improve the Magnuson-Stevens Act one step closer to completion – more than five years after it was supposed to have been reauthorized. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s (TRCP) Angling 4 Oceans campaign had called for the committee to work together to incorporate issues of importance to recreational anglers into the legislation and move it forward. House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) did just that in working with Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-WV), Fisheries Subcommittee Chairman Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and Representative Jim Saxton (R-NJ) to develop the manager’s amendment that was accepted today. In addition, an amendment accepted by the committee added language that considers the economic impacts of all fishing sectors before making fisheries allocations decisions. “Chairman Pombo understands the importance of healthy, sustainable fisheries for recreational saltwater fishing to grow and thrive,” commented Bob Hayes, General Counsel for the Coastal Conservation Association and co-chair of the Angling 4 Oceans working group. “We worked closely with the chairman to ensure that not only is his bill good for anglers, but also good for fish. We will continue to work with him to get a bill out of the House that can be reconciled with the Senate so that we can enact sound fisheries management policy before time runs out this Congress.” The changes made today by the committee bring the bill closer to including all of priorities of the Angling 4 Oceans 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. If provisions are included in the final bill that address these principles, recreational saltwater anglers and marine fisheries will benefit. The bill that was reported out of the House Resources Committee today includes an amendment offered by Representative Jim Saxton (R-NJ) that requires that the economic impacts of recreational fishing and all other sectors be considered when making fisheries allocation decisions. The language, one of the top priorities of TRCP’s Angling 4 Oceans campaign, would change the current process of making allocations based on historical catch records – a process that typically favors commercial fishing. “Our groups recently released new research that shows that recreational saltwater fishing has an economic impact that is three times greater than the commercial finfish industry, but often management decisions weigh heavily towards commercial fishing,” said Michael Nussman, President of the American Sportfishing Association. “Recreational anglers want to be held on par with commercial anglers and the new language in the bill to consider the economic impact of all sectors will help balance the scales.” While the House bill differs from the Senate bill in that it does not include provisions to create a national registry of recreational anglers, it addresses concerns with recreational fishing data by authorizing funding to improve the Marine Recreational Fishing Survey Statistics program of the National Marine Fisheries Service. “Improving recreational catch and effort data is a top priority for state fishery managers and anglers,” said Eric Schwaab of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and co-chair of the Angling 4 Oceans campaign. “We view a system of state-based saltwater fishing licenses, which could take advantage of and build on the existing network of state based fishing license systems, as one pathway to better data. Our ultimate goal is to work with Congress, federal fishery managers and anglers to devise an efficient data collection system that meets our fisheries management needs.” The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Angling 4 Oceans campaign has organized a diverse group of recreational fishing, conservation and industry organizations including 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, 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: http://www.angling4oceans.org/. *** The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is a coalition of leading conservation organizations and individual grassroots partners, working together to conserve fish and wildlife and their habitat, increase funding for conservation and management, and expand access to places to hunt and fish.