With the 116th Congress being sworn in today, we wanted to highlight the policy accomplishments the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and its members and partners achieved in 2018, as well as our 2019 priorities.
While many factors can affect the success of the sportfishing industry, the policy issues in which ASA engages typically fall into two categories: fisheries conservation and public access. Ensuring fish stocks and their habitat are healthy and that anglers have reasonable access to get out on the water are the cornerstones of a successful sportfishing industry, and we achieved positive progress on both fronts in 2018.
The 2018 highlights include:
- Improving Federal Marine Fisheries Management – The Modern Fish Act will improve federal marine fisheries management and data collection, ultimately benefitting recreational fishing opportunities in offshore waters.
- Advancing Everglades Restoration – Passage of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 helps address the environmentally damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee by authorizing the Everglades Agricultural Storage Reservoir project and requiring an expedited review of how Lake Okeechobee levels are managed under its regulation schedule.
- Protecting Traditional Fishing Tackle – ASA successfully secured language in the federal funding bill that prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency from restricting lead fishing tackle, as well as helped to defeat a bill in California that would have banned lead fishing tackle
- Addressing Predation of Pacific Northwest Salmon – The enacted Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act helps to address one of the most pressing issues facing Pacific Northwest fisheries by empowering trained state and tribal managers to better combat the negative consequences of unchecked sea lion predation on salmon at environmental pinch points.
- Great Lakes Fisheries Funding – ASA supported greater federal funding for a variety of Great Lakes fisheries programs, including those aimed at preventing the spread of Asian carp, which poses a significant threat to the Great Lakes fisheries and their $7 billion a year economic impact.
- Banning Drift Gillnets in California – California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a state bill that ends commercial drift gillnet fishing – which has unacceptably high bycatch levels – and encourages a transition to more sustainable fishing gear.
- Gulf Red Snapper Management Reform – After years of shrinking season lengths despite increasing red snapper abundance, the Gulf of Mexico region states have been allowed an increased role in managing red snapper, which has improved fishing access and data collection.
- Combatting Harmful Algal Blooms – Congress reauthorized the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 2018, which authorizes important programs to study and help mitigate the impacts of harmful algal blooms and their damaging impacts on fisheries.
- Billfish Conservation – Through the denial of a proposal to allow commercial gillnetting in the East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area, and passage of a bill to close a loophole in the Billfish Conservation Act that would have led to increased commercial exploitation, ASA played an active role in ensuring the conservation of billfish.
Many of these policy victories were years in the making, and we’d like to credit much of their success to ASA’s past President and CEO, Mike Nussman, and past Vice President of Government Affairs, Scott Gudes, both of whom retired from ASA in 2018. Their skilled leadership and tireless advocacy were instrumental in achieving these, and many other policy successes in which ASA has taken part.
While much work remains ahead, our 2018 successes will benefit the recreational fishing industry for years to come.
ASA’s 2019 federal legislative policy priorities include:
- Reauthorization of the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which must occur as part of the Highway Bill reauthorization expected during the 116th
- Enactment of a public lands package that addresses key sportsmen’s issues.
- Securing robust federal funding for important fisheries conservation and public access programs.
- Addressing marine fisheries legislative priorities, including improving forage fish conservation, restoring coral reefs, banning drift gillnets in federal waters and making further improvements to the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
In addition to our federal priorities, with the hiring of several new, regional-focused Government Affairs staff, ASA is excited to be more active and effective in the numerous local, state and regional issues affecting the sportfishing industry.
ASA’s Government Affairs staff is already hard at work educating new lawmakers, and reeducating returning ones, in Washington D.C. and throughout the country on the importance of recreational fishing to the nation. With your help, we can hopefully achieve even more successes in 2019 and beyond.
By Mike Leonard, Vice President, Government Affairs and Clay Crabtree, Policy Director