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Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization bill clears House panel

Recreational fishing and boating advocates applauded a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, to reauthorize the act that governs saltwater fishing for commercial and recreational anglers.

The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources last week approved H.R. 1335, which would reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act while addressing top priorities of the recreational fishing community.

The priorities were identified by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, also known as the Morris-Deal Commission, after co-chairmen and Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats president Scott Deal.

In 2014, the Morris-Deal Commission released “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries,” which includes six key policy changes to produce the full range of saltwater recreational fishing’s social, economic and conservation benefits to the nation.

One of the recommendations of the Morris-Deal Commission was addressed by an amendment, offered by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., that would prompt a review of quota allocations in fisheries in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico with both a commercial and recreational component.

Many federal fisheries managers have not revisited the allocations, most of which were determined decades ago.

A separate amendment offered by Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., that would transfer the management of Gulf of Mexico red snapper to the five Gulf states was not included.

“The recreational fishing community owes a debt of gratitude to chairman Rob Bishop and congressman Don Young for incorporating meaningful changes to recreational fisheries management into the reauthorization of the nation’s marine fisheries law,” Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers said in a statement. “The Morris-Deal Report set forth a vision for the future of saltwater recreational fishing, and this bill would help to achieve that vision.”

The nation’s 11 million saltwater recreational anglers have a $70 billion economic impact annually and support 450,000 jobs, American Sportfishing Association president and CEO Mike Nussman said. “However, federal marine fisheries management has never sufficiently acknowledged the importance of recreational fishing to the nation. H.R. 1335 would enact many of the necessary changes to elevate saltwater recreational fishing to the level it deserves.”

The recommendations of the Morris-Deal Commission include:

  • Establishing a national policy for recreational fishing
  • Adopting a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management
  • Allocating marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation
  • Creating reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines
  • Codifying a process for cooperative management
  • Managing for the forage base

“Management that emphasizes conservation and abundance, and allows for consistent access to public resources for saltwater anglers, was at the heart of the recommendations made by the Morris-Deal Commission,” Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership president and CEO Whit Fosburgh said. “Including those recommendations into legislation aimed at improving our nation’s fisheries management means Congress is recognizing the importance of angling to American culture and our economy.”

“The broad coalition of leading recreational fishing and boating organizations that has come together to support our community’s priorities should be pleased with this bill,” Recreational Fishing Alliance executive director Jim Donofrio said. “RFA is proud to have participated as part of this coalition.”