Legislation clarifies intent of Pacific billfish conservation measures
Conservationists and anglers are praising a bill filed yesterday by U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) that seeks to clear the way for full implementation of a landmark law to raise protections for billfish. The Billfish Conservation Act (BCA) was lauded when it was signed into law in 2012, but a slight ambiguity in the wording of the original legislation prevented it from being implemented as intended by the federal government.
“IGFA has been devoted to the success of the Billfish Conservation Act from the beginning, and we are hopeful that the action of Senators Nelson, Rubio, Manchin and Moran will close the continental U.S market for billfish once and for all,” said Rob Kramer, president of the International Game Fish Association. “On behalf of the millions of saltwater recreational anglers, thank you for working to ensure the United States is the leader in billfish conservation.”
The Billfish Conservation Act banned the importation of all billfish caught by foreign fleets into the continental United States and, perhaps most importantly, set an example for other countries to pursue similar conservation efforts once thought impossible. However, questions arose over whether the same prohibitions on foreign caught billfish imposed by the bill also applied to billfish caught commercially in Hawaii. If commercially caught billfish could be transported from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland, it would circumvent the intent of the conservation measure. The legislation introduced today simply clarifies that billfish landed in Hawaii must be retained there.
“CCA always supported a complete prohibition on the sale of billfish to U.S. markets, and we are grateful to Senators Nelson, Rubio, Manchin and Moran for clarifying that prohibition,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “Closing off this market and removing the bounty on these majestic fish for foreign fleets is a big victory for conservation.”
Prior to the passage of the Billfish Conservation Act, the U.S. was the number one importer of billfish in the world. U.S. calls for greater billfish conservation in international fishery management circles in the past were often met with skepticism, and disregarded. Implemented as originally intended, the law should make it easier for the U.S. to establish a greater leadership role for the international protection of billfish.
“On behalf of America’s 11 million saltwater anglers, a big ‘thank you’ to Senators Nelson, Rubio, Manchin and Moran for filing this fix to the Billfish Conservation Act,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “This effort will have a measurable impact on the conservation of these incredible fish and strengthen America’s commitment to sound fisheries management.”
The coalition of groups supporting the Billfish Conservation Act includes American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, OCEARCH and Wild Oceans.