On April 6, Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (CSC) Member Congressman Garret Graves, along with CSC Co-Chair Congressman Gene Green, CSC Member Congressman Rob Wittman and Congressman Daniel Webster introduced essential legislation that offers a solution to many of the challenges facing recreational anglers from federal fisheries management in our coastal waters.
The "Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017" will provide much-needed modifications to the way the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) approaches management of the recreational sector and the nation's 11 million saltwater anglers.
"Private citizens who like to fish are on the losing end of the federal government's failure to bring the way it manages our nation's waters up to speed with the information age. Our bill is designed to fix that. By leveraging technology and data collection capabilities that already exist, we can use real-time information to improve fisheries management decision-making and enjoy the flexibility that comes with being informed by accurate numbers," said Rep. Graves. "By modernizing federal fisheries policy, the Modern Fish Act will let us practice data-driven sustainability, get more people out to enjoy recreational fishing and unlock economic growth for coastal communities that rely so heavily on fishing activities."
An important provision of the bill would encourage the use of alternative management approaches for the recreational sector. The Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) and federal fisheries management have historically centered on commercial fishing, using management models like hard pound quotas that work well for commercial fisheries, but are rarely effective for maximizing access for the recreational sector due to the difficulty in estimating angler harvest in pounds. Instead, managers would be encouraged to use measures like extraction rates or harvest mortality targets, which are more similar to the successful approach used by state fisheries agencies to manage recreational fisheries.
"Whether fishing inshore or offshore, spending time on the water with family and friends is an important way of life along the Gulf Coast," said Rep. Green. "I'm proud to be a sponsor of this bill as we work to provide better access to our fisheries for America's anglers, while continuing to ensure long-term conservation and sustainability of our fisheries resources. I hear from constituents all the time on how important access is for recreational fishing and am proud to introduce this legislation with my colleagues that highlights the importance of recreational fishers to both conservation efforts and the economy."
Other changes to MSA offered in the bill included periodically reexamining fisheries allocations, establishing reasonable exemptions for annual catch limits, strategically rebuilding fish stocks, and improving recreational data collection.
"We're extremely grateful for Congressmen Graves, Green, Webster and Wittman for introducing this legislation that provides sensible solutions for anglers perpetually stuck in a commercial fisheries management paradigm," said Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation President Jeff Crane. "This legislation will allow federal management under MSA to finally embrace recreational fishing on the same level as commercial fisheries, promote access to America's marine fisheries resources and fully realize the economic benefits of saltwater recreational fishing to the nation."