Saltwalter anglers operating in federally controlled waters are warmly welcoming moves in Congress to change the way fish stocks are managed and assessed.
The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act was introduced in the House earlier this month. If passed, it is believed it will have a major impact on Florida and other Gulf states.
Also known as the Modern Fish Act, H.R. 2023 proposes changing the model by which quotas are assessed because it has traditionally made it difficult for recreational anglers to work out whether they are within the guidelines. Instead of relying on pound quotas, federal fishery managers will use extraction or harvest mortality targets to assess the impact on the fish population. This is the standard used by many states.
Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, believes this is the best opportunity in awhile to reform federal policy relating to saltwater fishing.
“For years, saltwater recreational anglers have been an afterthought and have suffered the consequences of ill-designed federal fisheries policies not meant to manage recreational fishing,” Angers told Florida Business Daily. “The Modern Fish Act is the bipartisan approach to address the serious challenges facing recreational anglers, such as inaccurate federal fish stock assessments that result in unnecessarily short fishing seasons."
He said the center "fully supports" the proposal.
“The bill would bring parity to the recreational and commercial fishing sectors and allow for increased public access and enhanced science through alternative management approaches," he said.
Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the bill April 6. It would allow for using alternative oversight methods for recreational fishing, rebuilding fishery stocks in smarter ways and improving data collection techniques.
It is hoped these steps would improve access to federal waters for saltwater recreational anglers and help build upon the estimated $70 billion annual economic impact, and promote conservation efforts.
“Private citizens who like to fish are on the losing end of the federal government’s failure to bring the way it manages our nation’s waters up to speed with the information age," Rep. Graves said after introducing the legislation. "Our bill is designed to fix that. By leveraging technology and data collection capabilities that already exist, we can use real-time information to improve fisheries management decision-making and enjoy the flexibility that comes with being informed by accurate numbers."
In addition to Graves, original cosponsors of the bill include Reps. Gene Green (D-TX), Daniel Webster (R-FL) and Rob Wittman (R-VA). The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.