The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 (Modern Fish Act), the first ever sportfishing focused legislation to pass through Congress, is headed to President Trump’s desk for his signature. The legislation makes critical updates to the oversight of federal fisheries and provides managers with new tools to manage these fisheries.
The passage of the legislation demonstrates the importance of recreational saltwater fishing to the nation. More than 11 million saltwater anglers contribute a $63 billion in annual economic impact and support 440,000 jobs. In addition, recreational anglers and boaters contribute $1.3 billion annually through excise taxes and licensing fees, most of which goes toward conservation, boating safety and infrastructure, and habitat restoration. Accordingly, healthy fisheries and access for recreational fishermen are vital.
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.
MWF would like to thank Senator Wicker for his leadership in introducing the Modern Fish Act in July 2017 and continuing to fight for its passage and for recreational anglers. We also appreciate the help of our Mississippi delegation to push this land mark legislation over the finish line to improve access and fisheries for recreational anglers.