Why It Matters: Restoring and improving fisheries habitat, science-based fisheries management, and access to our fisheries have always been at the center of CSF’s mission. Last week, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries hosted a hearing on three CSF-supported bills that seek to fund coastal conservation, develop a task force to explore shark depredation, and protect access for anglers to offshore fisheries.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Program has been a highly successful, voluntary-based model for coastal wetland and estuary restoration that is in need of authorization and additional funding.
- Sharks have become increasingly problematic for recreational and commercial fisheries in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico as their numbers have increased and they have learned that fishing vessels provide easy meals.
- A “Great Red Snapper Count” currently ongoing in the South Atlantic will soon shed more light on the discrepancies between recent stock assessment model outcomes versus what anglers are seeing on the water.
Last week, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries hosted a hearing on several bills before the committee, three of which are priorities for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). CSF submitted a statement for the record strongly supporting the Coastal Habitat Conservation Act of 2023 (H.R. 2950), the SHARKED Act (H.R. 4051), and the Red Snapper Act (H.R. 4587).
The Coastal Habitat Conservation Act of 2023 (H.R. 2950) would authorize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Program and would increase authorized discretionary appropriations from $20 million in Fiscal Year 2024 to $25 million in 2028 for coastal protection, restoration, and enhancement efforts around the nation and in the Great Lakes. This program has proven to be a highly successful public-private partnership for restoring and protecting fish and wildlife habitat on public and privately-owned lands.
The SHARKED Act (H.R. 4051) would simply establish a non-regulatory task force that would be responsible for making recommendations for improving coordination and communication across the fisheries management community on shark depredation, as well as identifying research priorities and funding opportunities. Shark depredation has quickly become a significant challenge for recreational and commercial fisheries in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.
The Red Snapper Act (H.R. 4587) would ensure that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had a more comprehensive assessment of the red snapper population in the South Atlantic before considering implementing area closures. Currently, the South Atlantic “Great Red Snapper Count”, an unprecedented new fishery-independent red snapper assessment for the region, is underway. Despite the highest abundance of red snapper in decades, NOAA recently considered seasonal area closures to all bottom fishing in the South Atlantic. While current stock assessments using models based largely on fishing mortality suggest the population is overfished and undergoing overfishing, the fact that we have historic levels of red snapper biomass that continues to grow suggests otherwise.