MSA Working Group Letter to Senate Committee Leaders

Posted on February 22, 2016

 
The Honorable John Thune
Chairman
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
512 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510

The Honorable Marco Rubio
Chairman
Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510

The Honorable Bill Nelson
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
425 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510

The Honorable Cory Booker
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard
359 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510


 

Dear Chairman Thune, Ranking Member Nelson, Chairman Rubio and Ranking Member Booker:

 

As a coalition of organizations representing the nation’s saltwater recreational fishing and boating community, including millions of anglers and thousands of recreational fishing-dependent businesses, we urge you to incorporate the priorities of the recreational fishing community as you contemplate reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the primary statute governing the nation’s marine fisheries.

The nation’s 11 million saltwater recreational anglers have a $70 billion economic impact annually and support 450,000 jobs. While MSA has made notable progress in ending overfishing and rebuilding fish stocks, federal marine fisheries management has never sufficiently acknowledged the importance of recreational fishing to the nation.

Recreational and commercial fishing are fundamentally different activities.  But MSA applies a commercial fishing management model to recreational fishing, leading to poor management outcomes and a high degree of angler dissatisfaction. Going forward, MSA must uphold its strong conservation tenants while recognizing that an approach suited to the nature of recreational fishing is needed for our sector.

On May 1, 2015, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1335, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act. This bill, championed by Congressman Don Young, addresses many of the priorities of the recreational fishing community as expressed by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, also known as the Morris-Deal Commission after co-chairs Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boats.

Provisions in H.R. 1335 supported by the recreational fishing community include:

  • Section 5 – Helps ensure that important fisheries aren’t closed unnecessarily by providing limited exceptions for annual catch limits;
  • Sections 17 and 29 – Improves the accuracy of fish stock information through greater involvement by the states and incorporating data collected by anglers themselves;
  • Section 27 – Promotes a more transparent and science-based review of fishery allocations;
  • Section 31 – Provides federal managers the authority to implement management practices better tailored to the nature of recreational fishing.

Similar provisions have also been incorporated in MSA-related bills that the Senate Commerce Committee has considered in recent years, including S.1403, the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act. In particular, we wish to note our support for Section 103 of S. 1403, which provides reasonable and science-based latitude in stock rebuilding timelines.  We also support directing federal fishery managers to focus greater attention on forage fish.

We are pleased that the Committee has demonstrated long overdue recognition of recreational fishing as it has contemplated reauthorizing MSA. We urge you to continue to build upon this recognition as you move toward full reauthorization.

We stand ready to assist as you consider these important issues.

 

Sincerely,

 

Mike Nussman, President and CEO                          Jeff Angers, President
American Sportfishing Association                           Center for Coastal Conservation

 

Patrick Murray, President                                            Jeff Crane, President
Coastal Conservation Association                             Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation

 

Guy Harvey, Chairman                                                   Rob Kramer, President
Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation                                  International Game Fish Association

 

Thom Dammrich, President                                         Jim Donofrio, President
National Marine Manufacturers Association        Recreational Fishing Alliance

 

Ellen Peel, President                                                      Whit Fosburgh
The Billfish Foundation                                  Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership