Senators Nelson and Rubio Stand Up for Anglers and Boaters Newly introduced marine fisheries legislation approved by the Senate Commerce Committee
Washington, D.C. (June 29, 2016) – The recreational fishing and boating community strongly supported action today by the Senate Commerce Committee to pass the recently introduced S. 3099, The Access for Sportfishing Act of 2016, which contains several marine fisheries-related provisions. The bill, championed by Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) addresses two of the community’s top priorities. Of particular importance to the recreational fishing and boating community are provisions to prevent unnecessary fishing closures in Biscayne National Park, and to further ensure conservation of billfish populations.
“Recreational fishing is a tremendous economic driver in the U.S., supporting 828,000 jobs,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. “Senators Nelson and Rubio deserve tremendous credit for their leadership in tackling issues of importance to the recreational fishing community not only in Florida but throughout the country. We are extremely pleased with the action today by the Senate Commerce Committee to advance this important legislation.”
A controversial proposal to implement a 10,500-acre marine reserve in Biscayne National Park was finalized in 2015, despite strong opposition from the fishing and boating community and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. S. 3099 would put in place several requirements the National Park Service would need to meet before implementing any fishing restrictions in Biscayne National Park, including basing the decision on sound fisheries management; prioritizing the state’s science, and ensuring it is the least restrictive measure necessary.
“After attempting to work in good faith with the National Park Service for many years to find a more reasonable path forward, it’s clear that Congressional action is needed to prevent this unwarranted marine reserve from going into effect,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “Any decision as drastic as closing public waters must be based on sound science with efforts made to minimize negative impacts to stakeholders. Thankfully, this bill will ensure a more fair and science-based process is followed.”
The Biscayne National Park marine reserve has been an issue of concern for numerous Members of Congress. The House of Representatives passed a bill, led by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), and 36 other sponsors, to require the National Park Service and Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to have approval from state fish and wildlife agencies before closing state waters to recreational or commercial fishing. Similar legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Rubio, was recently included in a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, which Cassidy chairs.
Also of significant importance in S. 3099 to the recreational fishing and boating community is a provision to amend the Billfish Conservation Act in an effort to adhere to Congressional intent. The bill would maintain a prohibition on the sale of marlin, sailfish and spearfish while ensuring that the exemption for traditional fisheries does not create new markets for these vulnerable species.
“The Billfish Conservation Act is one of the most significant legislative achievements for marine fisheries conservation in recent years, and we are thankful for the continued diligence of Senators Nelson and Rubio on this important issue,” said Rob Kramer, president of the International Game Fish Association. “We are proud to support S. 3099 as a very positive bill for fisheries conservation and angler access.”
“A thoughtful, inclusive process that conserves our resources while providing enhanced fishing and recreation opportunities is the best approach to managing our public marine resources,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “We are grateful to Senators Nelson and Rubio for championing this bill, and ensuring that the public continues to have a voice in the management of our marine resources.”
The Honorable Rob Bishop, Chairman
Committee on Natural Resources
The Honorable Raul Grijalva, Ranking Member
Committee on Natural Resources
Committee on Natural Resources
1324 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairman Bishop, Ranking Member Grijalva and Members of the Committee on Natural Resources:
We, the undersigned organizations, represent the vast saltwater recreational angling community that generates more than $70 billion in economic activity and supports over 450,000 jobs across the nation. We write to urge your support of Representative Garret Graves’ H.R. 3094, the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act, during Committee markup Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
The Honorable Rick Scott
Office of the Governor
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
Dear Governor Scott:
We, the undersigned, are making a formal complaint regarding the Our Florida Reefs Community Working Group (OFR) process that is developing recommendations for the management of the southeast Florida coral reef tract from Stuart to Key Biscayne. As Governor, we greatly appreciate your continued recognition of the value recreational fishing and boating brings to our State and the importance of sustainable resources and environmental responsibility. With this in mind, we have serious concerns that OFR’s recommendations relating to fishing restrictions and additional federal oversight over our state’s fisheries are not based on sound scientific principles and that the process used to generate those recommendations was significantly flawed. While OFR lacks regulatory authority, their recommendations will carry significant weight and will be used by outside entities and agencies to gain control of fisheries management in our own state waters.
The long-awaited red drum stock assessment was presented to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) this week, and the initial results show cause for concern.
The Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR) for both the southern portion of the stock (Florida, Georgia and South Carolina) and the northern portion (North Carolina and points north) should be at least 30 percent. This means the spawning stock for red drum must be at least 30 percent that of an unfished stock. The estimates revealed this week indicate an SPR of 17 percent for the southern portion and just 9.1 percent for the northern portion. Recreational anglers in several states along the Atlantic Coast have voiced concerns about the status of the red drum population, but these estimates, if correct, are alarming. They indicate stocks could be slipping below a level needed to maintain a healthy stock.
The future of recreational fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is for sale in Texas.
While charter boats and private recreational anglers in the Gulf were only allowed to catch red snapper in federal waters on 10 days last year, two companies in Galveston, Texas have been taking recreational anglers red snapper fishing all year round.
What's more, the companies allow the fishermen to keep as many red snapper as they want each day, blowing past the two-fish-per-day federal limit.
The only thing limiting how many snapper the customers are allowed to keep is how much they are willing to pay.
The Texas companies have been getting around the federal limits and seasons by selling the "Catch Shares Fishing Experience." The Texas companies involved own "catch shares" of the commercial red snapper fishery that allow them to harvest a set number of pounds per year for commercial sale.
Instead of catching those fish with a professional crew and selling them to a fish house, the captains are taking recreational anglers fishing and letting them buy the fish afterward.
For the customers, the catch share experience represents the ultimate fishing trip, where they can keep many more snapper than the two per person per day allowed under federal law. Meanwhile, the boat captains running the trips are able to market the fish as "fresh fish caught that day," which command a much higher price at the dock than most commercially caught snapper.