On December 19, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S.1520, the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 (Modern Fish Act). The vote was the final step toward sending the landmark legislation to the President’s desk after it passed the Senate on December 17.
“The Modern Fish Act is the most significant update to America’s saltwater fishing regulations in more than 40 years and the recreational fishing community couldn’t be more excited,” said Johnny Morris, noted conservationist and founder of Bass Pro Shops. “On behalf of America’s 11 million saltwater anglers, we’re grateful to Speaker Ryan, the 115th Congress and all the elected leaders who came together to support and enhance recreational fishing across America.”
The priorities of the recreational fishing and boating community were identified and presented to federal policy makers in 2014 by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management in a report “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.” The Commission was known as the Morris-Deal Commission, named for co-chairs Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boat Group. Four years later, many of the recommendations of the Morris-Deal Commission are found in the Modern Fish Act.
“America’s anglers and members of the recreational fishing and boating industry are among the most responsible stewards of our marine resources because healthy fisheries and the future of recreational fishing go hand-in-hand,” said Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boat Group. “A huge thank you to our congressional leaders who answered the call of the recreational fishing community to improve the way our fisheries are managed.”
America’s 11 million saltwater anglers have a $63 billion economic impact annually and generate 440,000 jobs, including thousands of manufacturing and supply jobs in non-coastal states. Furthermore, $1.3 billion is contributed annually by anglers and boaters through excise taxes and licensing fees, most of which goes toward conservation, boating safety and infrastructure, and habitat restoration.
“It is a historic day for America’s 11 million saltwater anglers thanks Senator Roger Wicker, Congressman Garret Graves and our many champions in Congress who fought until the very end for recreational fishing to be properly recognized in federal law,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “For the first time ever, Congress is sending a sportfishing-focused bill to the President’s desk.”
The Modern Fish Act will provide more stability and better access for anglers by:
- Providing authority and direction to NOAA Fisheries to apply additional management tools more appropriate for recreational fishing, many of which are successfully implemented by state fisheries agencies (e.g., extraction rates, fishing mortality targets, harvest control rules, or traditional or cultural practices of native communities);
- Improving recreational harvest data collection by requiring federal managers to explore other data sources that have tremendous potential to improve the accuracy and timeliness of harvest estimates, such as state-driven programs and electronic reporting (e.g., through smartphone apps);
- Requiring the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on the process of mixed-use fishery allocation review by the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Regional Fishery Management Councils and report findings to Congress within one year of enactment of the Modern Fish Act, and
- Requiring the National Academies of Sciences to complete a study and provide recommendations within two years of the enactment of the Modern Fish Act on limited access privilege programs (catch shares) including an assessment of the social, economic, and ecological effects of the program, considering each sector of a mixed-use fishery and related businesses, coastal communities, and the environment and an assessment of any impacts to stakeholders in a mixed-use fishery caused by a limited access privilege program. This study excludes the Pacific and North Pacific Regional Fishery Management Councils.
The coalition of groups supporting the Modern Fish Act includes American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, The Billfish Foundation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
America’s recreational fishing and boating community applauds Congress for this historic vote and looks forward to final enactment of the Modern Fish Act following the President’s signature.