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Tuesday, June 19, 2012 (Washington, DC) – The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) hosted a briefing this morning for members of Congress on some of the most pressing issues in the 112th Congress for the recreational fishing community – the Fishery Science Improvement Act, the Billfish Conservation Act and the Idle Iron directive of the Department of the Interior.
The Fishery Science Improvement Act (H.R.2304, S.1916), introduced by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) member Representative Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), would lift the requirement to implement strict catch limits on stocks of fish for which there is inadequate data and no evidence of overfishing. This legislation allows NOAA Fisheries to better conform to the intent of the 2006 reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens Act: to end overfishing based on sound scientific management.
“Guesswork has no place in the management of America’s natural resources,” Representative Wittman told the assembled crowd. “Sound science should drive management of our valuable fisheries. That’s why dozens of my colleagues have joined as cosponsors of the Fishery Science Improvement Act; it’s time to move this bipartisan legislation that is vital to coastal economies.”
The Billfish Conservation Act (H.R.2706, S.1451), introduced by CSC Co-Chair Representative Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and CSC Member Senator David Vitter (R-La.), would prohibit the sale of all billfish species, except swordfish, in the U.S. with the exception of traditional fisheries in Hawaii and the Pacific islands. Sales of those species has an insignificant economic impact as it amounts to less than 0.1 percent of the U.S. seafood industry; however, the conservation impact is considerable for stressed billfish populations that are of huge economic value to recreational anglers as catch-and-release fisheries.
“The Billfish Conservation Act attempts to restore a severely depleted fish population, while at the same time preserving our nation’s fishing heritage and providing for economic growth during a time when our country needs it most,” said Representative Miller. The Fisheries Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the Billfish Conservation Act today.
The Decommissioning Guidance for Wells & Platforms issued on September 15, 2010 by the Department of the Interior (“Idle Iron Policy”) has caused concerns among recreational anglers. As currently constructed, the Idle Iron Policy stands to inflict irreparable damage on an extensive range of marine fisheries and ecosystems. The expedited removal of well and platform infrastructure called for in this policy may threaten habitat that constitutes important marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico and may have a negative impact on fishery management plans for species of importance. On June 7, the greater recreational angling community sent a letter to Secretary Salazar expressing these concerns. The Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council also sent a letter to Secretary Salazar yesterday, June 18.
Representative Palazzo encouraged his colleagues in the Congress to join him in calling for a moratorium on implementation of the Idle Iron Policy until a thoughtful process can be enumerated. “While the Idle Iron Policy may be well intentioned, these habitats are irreplaceable, living assets that should be as protected as any naturally occurring reefs. That’s why I introduced the Rigs to Reefs legislation, and that is why I am also urging the Department of Interior to take a step back and re-evaluate this misguided policy.”
CSC Vice-Chair Representative Latta and former Co-Chair Representative Boswell joined CSC member Senator Manchin in welcoming attendees while Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Costal Conservation and board member of the CSF, spoke on the need to protect the economic contributions of the American saltwater recreational angling community.
“We’re here today to talk about priorities that affect this $92-billion-a-year business,” said Angers. “We appreciate the efforts of the members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus who are dedicated in transcending the propaganda and politics surrounding our nation’s fisheries. These Members understand recreational fishing as an economic driver in coastal economies, and they work with a broad spectrum of interests to ensure responsible fisheries stewardship.”
In 2006, NOAA Fisheries generated national estimates of effort and participation within the recreational angling community. Those numbers indicate 24.7 million saltwater anglers take four trips a year on average. The homegrown enterprise of marine recreational fishing in America generates $92.2 billion in total sales (in 2011 dollars). In 2010, marine recreational fishing employed 533,813 people, contributed $621.5 million in license purchases – $329.8 million across just the coastal states – and anglers paid $650 million nationwide in excise taxes to be apportioned back to the states for fishery management purposes.
“The CSF has been working with CSC leadership and other Caucus members to promote our nation’s fishing heritage and to demonstrate the importance of recreational angling to conservation and coastal economies”, said CSF President, Jeff Crane. “The topics discussed during the briefing shed light on a small sampling of key issues facing America’s recreational anglers that the 112th Congress is poised to address or are currently moving in Congress.”
The International Game Fish Association, Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, The Billfish Foundation, Center for Coastal Conservation and National Offshore Industries Association co-hosted the briefing.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?