On January 14, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife hosted a hearing on several bills aimed at improving fisheries and coral management and improving the disaster relief process for fishing communities. CSF submitted a letter of support for three of the bills heard by the subcommittee.
CSF has worked with Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Members (CSC) throughout the 116th Congress to introduce many of these bills and has worked to garner bipartisan support for each of them. Priority pieces of legislation included in the hearing were:
H.R. 2236: The Forage Fish Conservation Act
- Introduced by CSC Vice-Chair Representative Debbie Dingell, H.R. 2236 would ensure that forage fish species are considered for their critical role in marine ecosystem function and health. Currently, the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MSA) manages important forage fish species like menhaden just as they do predator species like greater amberjack, red snapper, grouper, etc., using a single-species management model and managing to a maximum sustainable yield. However, this approach fails to account for the need to leave fish in the water as forage for other recreationally and commercially important fish species, as well as marine mammals and birds. This bill would simply require the regional fishery management councils consider the impacts of forage fish harvest quotas on other fish populations and the marine ecosystem when developing new, or revising existing, forage fish management plans.
H.R. 5126: The Direct Enhancement of Snapper Conservation and the Economy through Novel Devices Act of 2019
- Introduced by CSC Member Representative Garret Graves, this bill would require commercial and recreational fishermen to possess a descending device rigged and ready for use or a venting tool when fishing for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf). The use of descending devices or venting fish caught from depth have been shown to significantly reduce discard mortality for red snapper and other important reef fish species in the Gulf. Reducing discard mortality in both the commercial and recreational sector will translate to more abundant populations and additional access opportunities for Gulf anglers.
H.R. 5548: The Fishery Failures: Urgently Needed Disaster Declarations Act
- Led by CSC Member Representative Jared Huffman, this will improve the federal fishery disaster process and ensure more timely disaster relief for impacted communities. Currently, the determination of a fisheries failure and the appropriation criteria is currently limited to the commercial sector, but this bill would ensure that recreational fishing-dependent businesses would be included in the declaration process and the determination of economic impact.
The next step for these bipartisan bills will be consideration before the full House Committee on Natural Resources in the near future.
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