Berkley Conservation Institute

Recreational Fishing and Boating Community Calls on Congress to Revamp Marine Fisheries Management

Leaders map out path for federal marine fisheries conservation

Congress is currently revising the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, the law that governs our nation's marine resources. Recreational saltwater anglers and the sportfishing and boating industries are intensifying efforts to ensure that their social, conservation and economic priorities are well represented in the legislative process.

Today, in a series of meetings on Capitol Hill, the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management co-chairs, Johnny Morris, founder and CEO, Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president, Maverick Boats, briefed members of Congress and media on the commission's recommended changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The commission, composed of anglers, scientists, former agency administrators, conservationists, industry representatives and economists, wants to ensure that saltwater recreational fishing becomes a priority of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service.

"Our commission offers a clear path to better stewardship of America's marine fishery resources," said Morris. "Today we ask Congress to join us on that path. We extend the invitation on behalf of all current anglers and future generations of anglers who will enjoy our nation's resources for many years to come."

Previewed in February during the 2014 Progressive Miami International Boat Show in Miami, Fla., A Vision for Managing America's Saltwater Recreational Fisheries outlines recreational fisheries management issues that need to be addressed in the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization.

"This is the first time that the recreational fishing and boating community has set forth a comprehensive vision," Deal said. "I'm honored to be a part of this effort and proud to help lead our collective industries in ensuring that Congress hears our voices."

The economic impact of saltwater angling in the U.S. is considerable. In 2011, approximately 11 million Americans saltwater fished recreationally, spending $27 billion in pursuit of their sport. That activity generated more than $70 billion in economic output and sustained 450,000 jobs. Anglers contribute more than $1.5 billion annually to fisheries habitat and conservation via excise taxes, donations and license fees alone.

Throughout 2013, members of the blue ribbon commission met to deliberate and debate strategies to improve saltwater recreational fisheries management. A wide range of experts and other stakeholders, including economists, scientists, federal and state agency administrators, environmentalists, charter captains and individual recreational anglers, were invited to meet with the commission to provide information and advice on a variety of fisheries management issues. The report reflects their input.

"The Magnuson-Stevens Act established a management system for commercial fisheries, which has made great strides in ending commercial overexploitation of our marine fisheries," said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. "However, for more than three decades it has focused primarily on commercial fishing. It's time for Congress to do something for saltwater recreational fishing."

A Vision for Managing America's Saltwater Recreational Fisheries identifies six key policies that would achieve the commission's vision. Those recommendations primarily focus on the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

The recommendations 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

"Congress should establish a national policy to promote saltwater recreational fishing," said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. "In addition, Congress must open the ‘rusted-shut' door of marine fisheries allocation to achieve the greatest benefit to the nation."

Contributors to the work of the commission include the American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Berkley Conservation Institute, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and The Billfish Foundation, as well as Bass Pro Shops and Maverick Boats.

FOR TWITTER - Use #MarineVison2014 to comment on this landmark report.