04 Jul Recreational stakeholders gather in Washington, D.C.
Recreational fishing stakeholders gathered on Capitol Hill on June 12 for a policy luncheon and panel to discuss federal saltwater recreational fisheries management including the Modern Fish Act (S. 1520/H.R. 2023) and Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act (H.R. 200).
Hosted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), this panel gathered Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members, representatives from sportfishing organizations, allied industry partners, and anglers from local fishing communities across the country who share the passion for recreational fishing and who want to provide federal managers with the tools necessary to more effectively manage the recreational sector.
Congressman Garrett Graves (LA) welcomed everyone and spoke to the importance of recreational fishing as well as the need to find balance for recreational anglers within federal fisheries management.
CSF’s Senior Fisheries Program Director Chris Horton kicked off the panel program. “It’s great to see so many folks coming together to support common sense adjustments to the federal fisheries management under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This isn’t about commercial fishermen vs. recreational anglers. It’s about updating a federal system of management that sometimes struggles to effectively manage a growing recreational sector.”
Panelists included John Brownlee , Executive Producer of Anglers Journal TV, David Slikkers of Tiara Yachts/Pursuit Boats, Brad Gentner of Gentner Consulting in Raleigh, and A.G. “Spud” Woodward, a former director of Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division.
“Recreational fishermen have consistently embraced limitations on their fishing activities when convinced of the need to do so by sound scientific data. This pattern began in the 1970s, when anglers first began to organize in response to commercial over-harvest, and it continues today,” said Brownlee. “But problems invariably arise when anglers are asked to sacrifice without such justification. Robust scientific data is crucial to justify limitations on access, because without access, our sport, our businesses and our heritage may founder.”
“America’s favorite pastime is fishing off the family boat. It’s more about family time together than harvesting fish. There is no better way to teach and practice conservation,” said Slikkers. “The recreational boating and the fishing industry creates nearly 850,000 jobs nationwide.”
“Marine recreational fisheries have been marginalized in the national discourse for a long time yet the recreational sector is generating $63.4 billion in economic activity while the commercial sector, from the net to the fork across the recreational fisheries, is generating $15.9 billion in economic activity,” said Gentner. “With numbers like that, it is high time management acknowledged our footprint.”
“Marine recreational fishing is fundamentally different than commercial fishing, requiring management approaches that recognize this difference,” said Woodward. “The Modern Fish Act proposes revisions to the Magnuson-Stevens Act that will allow NMFS and the regional fishery management councils greater flexibility to manage in a way that provides predictable opportunities for anglers and guides while also ensuring fish stocks remain healthy.
Throughout the week, to coincide with the timing of the panel, CSF and partners coordinated nearly 40 Capitol Hill visits for recreational angling stakeholders to meet with their U.S. Representatives and Senators about fisheries management and the Modern Fish Act.
Sponsors of the Congressional Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy Luncheon included: American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Yamaha Motor Corporation.