The US Senate has just passed S1520, also known as the Modern Fish Act of 2017, and the bill is now heading towards the US House of Representatives for a final vote. The bill would make critical updates for the oversights of federal fisheries.
The Modern Fish Act, introduced by Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), was passed unanimously as it is strongly supported by more than a dozen cosponsors from the Senate and a number of organizations that represent recreational saltwater fishing and the greater boating communities throughout the US.
“We are proud of the extensive work that went into producing this bill and are grateful to our champions in Congress who worked to establish recreational angling as an important component in the management of our nation’s fisheries, at long last,” said Patrick Murray, President of Coastal Conservation Association. “Thanks to this effort, the recreational angling community is better positioned than ever to address ongoing shortcomings in our nation’s fisheries laws and we look forward to continuing this work with our elected officials to ensure the proper conservation of our country’s marine resources and anglers’ access to them.”
If passed, the Modern Fish Act will provide more stability and better access for anglers by:
- Providing authority and direction to NOAA Fisheries to apply additional management tools more appropriate for recreational fishing, many of which are successfully implemented by state fisheries agencies (e.g., extraction rates, fishing mortality targets, harvest control rules, or traditional or cultural practices of native communities);
- Improving recreational harvest data collection by requiring federal managers to explore other data sources that have tremendous potential to improve the accuracy and timeliness of harvest estimates, such as state-driven programs and electronic reporting (e.g., through smartphone apps);
- Requiring the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on the process of mixed-use fishery allocation review by the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Regional Fishery Management Councils and report findings to Congress within one year of enactment of the Modern Fish Act, and
- Requiring the National Academies of Sciences to complete a study and provide recommendations within two years of the enactment of the Modern Fish Act on limited access privilege programs (catch shares) including an assessment of the social, economic, and ecological effects of the program, considering each sector of a mixed-use fishery and related businesses, coastal communities, and the environment and an assessment of any impacts to stakeholders in a mixed-use fishery caused by a limited access privilege program. This study excludes the Pacific and North Pacific Regional Fishery Management Councils
The recreational fishing and boating community thanks Senator Wicker for leading the Modern Fish Act through the Senate. We urge the incoming Congress to continue working to improve the way recreational fisheries are managed at the federal level.