April 15, 2024

House Introduces Bill to Remove Access Uncertainty on Marine Waters

Why It Matters: There are seven federal agencies under four different cabinet-level secretaries that have some degree of jurisdiction and regulatory authority over what hunters, anglers, and boaters can or cannot do on navigable waters. As a compliment to the MAPWaters Act for the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, the MAPOceans Act recently introduced in the House will begin to require the federal agency with the most U.S. waters under their jurisdiction, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to similarly digitize and map public information about federal fishing and boating restrictions in marine waters that is consistent with other federal agencies.


  • NOAA has jurisdictional authority of our nation’s marine fisheries resources from the limit of a state or territorial sea (typically 3 or 9 miles from shore) out to the 200-mile limit of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
  • A lot of water – a lot of rules! In addition to the 1.24 million square miles of water in marine protected areas (MPA’s) mostly under their authority, NOAA also manages 460 fish stocks or stock complexes through the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils.

Last week, Congressman Anthony D’Esposito (NY) and Congressman Mike Levin (CA) introduced H.R. 7925, the Modernizing Access to Our Public Oceans Act, also known as the MAPOceans Act. The bill seeks to eliminate confusion for public recreation on our nation’s marine and coastal waterways through standardizing, consolidating, and publishing digital data concerning regulations on marine waters under federal management.

“We applaud Congressmen D’Esposito and Levin for their leadership in introducing the MAPOceans Act,” said Chris Horton, Senior Director of Fisheries Policy for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). “This much needed, bipartisan legislation will remove the uncertainty about where we can fish and with what gear that can often create barriers for angler participation on our coastal waters.”

The MAPOceans Act will direct NOAA to digitize and make available to the public any access or recreational use restriction on marine waters under the agency’s jurisdiction. Through NOAA’s eight Regional Fishery Management Councils, 46 management plans covering 460 fish stocks or stock complexes create a mosaic of fishing regulations and restrictions that are often location specific and can be cumbersome to understand. In addition, marine protected areas (MPAs) cover 26% of U.S. marine waters, most of which are under NOAA’s watch. The MAPOceans Act will ultimately benefit anglers and boaters by helping them know which waters are open or closed to boating or fishing, areas with propulsion restrictions, seasonal closures for certain species of fish, and what types of fishing gear are allowable in any given area, among others.

Both MAPOceans and MAPWaters are priorities for CSF, and we look forward to working with the bill sponsors to see these two important bills signed into law.

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