Industry’s voice is being heard on Capitol Hill
The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations recently passed two bills that will provide funding in fiscal year 2019 for federal agencies with key roles in fisheries management and conservation. These measures address many priorities for the nation’s recreational fishing industry, which supports 828,000 jobs and has a $115 billion annual economic impact.
On June 14, 2018, the Committee approved the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations bill, which includes funding for the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill, which funds agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“The recreational fishing industry is extremely grateful to Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee for advancing bills that will provide critical funding and direction for a variety of programs that support fisheries sustainability and fishing access for America’s sportsmen and women,” said Scott Gudes, vice president of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “In bringing these bills to the full committee, Interior Subcommittee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ranking Member Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and CJS Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Ranking Member Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) deserve a tremendous amount of credit and our community’s appreciation as well. The committee’s action today is a demonstration that bipartisanship in Congress is alive and well when it comes to natural resource programs.”
Specific priorities in these bills highlighted by ASA include:
- Funding for a variety of programs related to Everglades restoration and coral reef health and restoration in South Florida;
- Ensuring that traditional fishing tackle is not subject to unnecessary and burdensome Federal regulation;
- Report language related to USFWS’ National Fish Habitat Partnership Program to ensure sufficient funding is provided for on-the-ground fish habitat restoration projects;
- Restored funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which addresses important challenges to the Great Lakes like invasive species and habitat restoration;
- Funding for the Department of Commerce to measure the economic impact of outdoor recreation business on the U.S. economy;
- Additional funding to improve the Marine Recreational Information Program with an emphasis on federal-states partnerships to establish reporting systems using technology such as smartphone apps;
- Report language directing NOAA Fisheries to enter into an additional agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to prepare a report and set of recommendations to resolve challenges related to in-season management of annual catch limits;
- A 12 percent increase in funding to support the Regional Fishery Management Councils and Interstate Marine Fisheries Commissions;
- Increased funding for NOAA Fisheries Data Collections, Surveys, and Assessments, which supports the fundamental science and data behind management of marine fisheries;
- Targeted funding for improved stock assessments of South Atlantic reef fish;
- Requiring NOAA Fisheries to provide technical assistance to the five Gulf of Mexico states to support the exempted fishing permits that are allowing the states to manage private recreational fishing for 2018 and 2019, and providing $5 million for this purpose; and
- A $5m increase in funding for the Pacific Salmon Recovery Fund for conservation projects to benefit salmon and steelhead that are endangered, threatened or at risk.
“The sportfishing industry greatly appreciates the leadership of Sens. Shelby, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John Kennedy (R-La.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) for addressing many of the challenges we are facing in the southeastern U.S.,” said Kellie Ralston, ASA’s Florida Fisheries Policy director. “These bills will go a long way toward ensuring the region’s fisheries resources are healthy and accessible by improving science for reef fish, funding critical Everglades restoration projects and tackling declines in coral reef health.”
“From Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) working to ensure America’s 49 million anglers aren’t subject to unnecessary restrictions on certain types of fishing tackle, to Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) helping to modernize marine recreational fisheries data, it’s clear that the recreational fishing industry has many champions in Congress,” said Gudes. “These Members understand our issues and are clearly willing to go to bat to ensure recreational fishing remains a vibrant part of America’s economy and heritage.”