Improving Fisheries Habitat Across the Nation

acadia_park_maine_300x180Here at KeepAmericaFishing, we stress the value of clean waterways, which provide better habitat for fish and thus better fishing. Since 1970, regulatory programs have reduced pollution and slowed the physical degradation of aquatic habitats. Thousands of river rehabilitations, reservoir enhancements, salt-marsh protection efforts and other conservation projects have been conducted across the country. Although significant gains have been made, they have not kept pace with impacts resulting from population growth and land-use changes. Given the diverse array of federal, state, tribal, local and private jurisdictions, the need has never been greater for increased action and improved coordination of fisheries conservation actions across boundaries and jurisdictions.

Maintaining healthy waterways, healthy habitats and robust fish populations are vital to providing clean water and sustainable fisheries with fishing opportunities. This is a huge concern to you, the 60 million anglers who pursue fish recreationally and the countless others who depend on them for subsistence and commerce.

While there are numerous efforts underway to address declining fishery health on local scales, there is a need for action on a nation-wide scale for these efforts to be successful. The National Fish Habitat Partnership (NFHP) provides that national framework for protecting, restoring and enhancing fish habitats.

Legislative Background

KeepAmericaFishing, along with a coalition of other conservation groups, has actively worked for close to six years to pass the legislation – the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act (NFHCA) – that will formally authorize and establish a permanent funding source for the Partnership. If signed into law, NFHCA will provide much needed structure and permanent funding for aquatic habitat restoration and conservation across the U.S. This is the most comprehensive effort ever attempted to treat the causes of fish habitat decline, not just the symptoms. The Partnerships leverage federal and privately raised funds aimed at fixing the nation’s biggest fisheries problems from the ground up.

NFHCA has been introduced during the 110th, 111th and 112th Congresses. During the 111th Congress, on December 3, 2009, American Sportfishing Association, Vice President Gordon Robertson testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works’ Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife in support of NFHCA. Unfortunately, in both the 111th and 112th Congresses time ran out before a floor vote could be attempted.

In 2014, NFHCA, S. 2080, was introduced into the 113th Congress on March 5 by Sens. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and Mike Crapo (R-ID). It was passed out of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee with no amendments on April 3; however, it proceeded to the Senate floor where it failed to win approval.

In this new session of Congress, KeepAmericaFishing is optimistic that NFHCA will pass along with a collection of other bills in the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015.