Cassidy - Rubio Bill Will Safeguard State Fisheries Management Authority

Legislation will help ensure potential fishing closures are based on science

Posted on April 19, 2016

Washington, D.C. – April 18, 2016 – A coalition of recreational fishing and boating
organizations praised the introduction of a bill, S.2807, that will safeguard the role of state
fisheries management agencies and help prevent unwarranted fishing closures like what
recently occurred at Biscayne National Park. Led by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who chairs
the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, and Marco
Rubio (R-Fla.), the “Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act” requires the National
Park Service to have approval from state fish and wildlife agencies before closing state
marine or Great Lakes waters to recreational or commercial fishing.


“Given the significant economic, social and conservation benefits that recreational fishing
provides to the nation, any decision to close or restrict public access should be based on
sound science and strong management principles,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO
of the American Sportfishing Association. “While closed areas have a role in fisheries
management, they should only come after legitimate consideration of all possible options
and agreement among management agencies. This bill, which is strongly supported by the
recreational fishing industry, will ensure that the voice of state fisheries agencies is not lost
in these decisions.”
 

Legislation similar to S.2807 has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part
of the Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act. The original
House bill, H.R. 3310, is led by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (RFla.),
Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and 35 other sponsors.


“State fish and wildlife agencies have a strong track record of sustainable fisheries
management that provides for ample fishing opportunities,” said Patrick Murray, president
of the Coastal Conservation Association. “This legislation will ensure that the states’
authority to manage state fishery resources is maintained, and will provide a backstop
against poorly developed fishing closures that would only serve to deter fishing
participation.”


A decision by the National Park Service in 2015 to implement a 10,000-acre marine reserve
in one of the nation’s most popular urban fishing areas just outside of Miami, Fla., sparked
significant opposition from the recreational fishing and boating community. Prior to that
decision, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission continually expressed its
position that the proposed marine reserve is overly restrictive to the public; will not be
biologically effective; and that less restrictive management tools can rebuild the park’s
fisheries resources and conserve habitat.


The recreational fishing and boating community echoed these concerns, but nevertheless
the National Park Service ultimately elected to close nearly 40 percent of Biscayne National
Park’s reef tract to fishing. The National Park Service’s decision to ignore the input of the
state and force new fisheries regulations in states waters revealed a loophole in current law
that could affect any state with coastal or Great Lakes waters that are managed by the
National Park Service. This has prompted Congressional action to safeguard the ability of
states to regulate fishing in state waters.


“The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) applauds the introduction of the
Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act in the Senate and the efforts of Sens. Cassidy
and Rubio to ensure robust access for boaters and anglers in U.S. National Parks,” said
NMMA President Thom Dammrich. “This legislation would require cooperative decision
making on fisheries policies in state waters, something that was lacking during the
development of the Biscayne National Park general management plan. The boating industry
continues to advocate for a balanced approach to access and conservation, cooperation
amongst stakeholder groups and open dialogue during National Park management planning.
We appreciate the Senators’ efforts to support these same goals.”


“It’s only logical that any decision affecting fishing access in state waters should have the
approval of that state’s fish and wildlife agency,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center
for Coastal Conservation. “We applaud Sens. Cassidy and Rubio for introducing this
common-sense legislation, and urge other members of the Senate to co-sponsor and help
ensure this bill’s passage.”
 

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