Recreational anglers and ocean conservationists scored a big victory in Congress yesterday as The Billfish Conservation Act passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives, clearing the way for a vote in the Senate, where the legislation also has strong bipartisan support.

The Billfish Conservation Act of 2011 would prohibit the sale of all species of billfish (swordfish are not included) in the U.S., with an exception for traditional island fisheries within Hawaii and the Pacific territories.

Sale of Atlantic billfish is already prohibited, as is striped marlin caught off the west coast. But we are the No. 1 buyer of foreign-caught fish, importing an unthinkable 30,000 Pacific marlin and other billfish, as well as black market fish from the Atlantic, each year for sale in our mainland restaurants and seafood markets.

According to Ken Hinman, President of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation (NCMC), "The U.S. already has the world's strongest conservation measures in place for billfish. This legislation will end imports of billfish and help us seek stronger measures internationally, where commercial overfishing of billfish has severely depleted populations."

"Now we are very close to getting the billfish legislation to the President's desk, which would help turn the tide on rapidly declining stocks of sailfish, marlin and spearfish," adds Rob Kramer, President of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). "This is great news for recreational anglers and for people working in tourism, sportfishing and marine businesses."

NCMC and IGFA are partners in the Take Marlin Off the Menu campaign.

Read Ken Hinman's guest column in today's Orlando Sentinel.
This information is provided by the National Coalition for Marine Conservation.
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