Will Congress Get it Right on Recreational Fishing?

Since the 1976 Fishery Conservation and Management Act the U.S. has been firmly in control of the fish in our waters, sending foreign fishing fleets packing. Until that point foreigners had been raking in the fish from our waters and sending them back home or even exporting them back to us. NOAA is now in charge of managing all the fish and shellfish within 200 miles of our coast to protect U.S. commercial fishing, sportfishing and domestic seafood industries. Its now time for a new Congressional reauthorization in 2015.

The founder of Bass Pro Shops help to chair a saltwater alliance called "Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management that helped make recommendations to Congress this go around. They are stating that " The country needs to manage all its saltwater fishery resources in ways that maximize the economic  benefit of recreational fishing."  Since the 1976 act, even with updated provisions, overfishing by U.S. fisherman has been occurring year after year.So in 2006 the act turned to from focusing on economic development to conservation of the fish. The act was renamed the "Magnuson-Stevens" act because Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska championed its new revisions. It mandated ending overfishing and called for rebuilding stocks with strict timelines. Also in the act, certain species were relegated off limits for commercial fishing, leaving the sportsfishing sector virtually untouched a huge boon for them. Since that time overfishing has been in decline. The revisions were considered a success.

The new acts revisions will seek to manage the last sectors, the recreational fishing side of the equation. Recreational fishing has become a 70 billion dollar a year industry, with 455,000 jobs. NOAA feels that it has reached the size it requires management, just like the commercial side once did. The agency has now taken the first steps with accepting six primary recommendations from the commission. The commission, which includes the CCA, is also trying to get the Feds to use seasons and quotas to manage recreational saltwater fishing. This is what states do to manage their fish and it has been successful for years. The Feds normally use poundage to manage the fish within their care, for commercial fisherman. However, commercial fishing harvests 98% of their catch for food. Recreational fisherman only 3%, so the same methods won't work. Recreational fisherman do not even fish for the same reasons. So to accomplish their goals the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management assembled a expert team of state, federal and private sector administrators, researchers, industry representatives, economists and various other experts to create a "Proactive Vision for Saltwater Fisheries Report." It differentiates the needs of recreational fishing from those of commercial fishing and put forth six recommendations, which have now been accepted.

The big question still looms over Congress whether it is feasible to manage recreational fishing under a totally different scheme? The commission feels it is and it is well worth the added effort. The new policy would represent an outstanding opportunity to put recreation fishing on equal footing they feel. This new approach could benefit the recreational fishery and enshrine those benefits into federal law. This would ensure that future recreational fisherman will be able to enjoy the industry, just as anglers today do.