Sportfishing Industry Lists Top Policy Accomplishments for 2016

Progress made on fisheries conservation and management issues at the state and federal levels

Alexandria, VA – January 5, 2017 – The past year not only brought significant change within the U.S. political system, and also within the nation’s recreational fishing policy arena. The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) recounts the top recreational fishing advocacy accomplishments of 2016.

“Throughout 2016, ASA’s members and staff met with members of Congress on Capitol Hill and in their home districts, to drive home the message that recreational fishing has a significant impact on our nation’s economy,” said ASA Government Affairs President Scott Gudes. “I want to thank these members, along with our Government Affairs committee members, for working to help us accomplish our legislative goals and as we look towards 2017.”

ASA Conservation Director Mike Leonard noted, “While we are pleased with these achievements, many policy challenges remain. Unfortunately, the third Congress in a row failed to pass the bipartisan and non-controversial Sportsmen’s Act. And while anglers are facing significant reductions in fishing seasons for important saltwater fisheries such as summer flounder, cobia and red snapper, Congress still needs to reauthorize and amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to rectify the problems with federal saltwater recreational fisheries management. These, and many other challenges, will be top priorities for ASA to address in 2017.”

Outdoor Recreation Finally Gets its Overdue Economic Recognition
In December, the President signed the Outdoor Recreation Economic Impact and Jobs Act of 2016 – the Outdoor REC Act – which instructs U.S. statistical agencies such as the Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis to produce data and growth estimates for the outdoor recreational sector on a regular basis. Currently, it is estimated that the outdoor recreational industry, including sportfishing and recreational boating, contributes approximately $646 billion to the U.S. economy. This bill represents a significant step forward in getting recognition for our industry’s economic impact.

South Florida and the Everglades to Get Much-needed Water Improvements
During December, the President also signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN), which authorizes transportation, habitat and water projects across the nation. Many of these projects have been supported by ASA. Foremost is the authorization of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) to re-channel fresh water flows in South Florida and to restore the Everglades. The bill authorizes $1.95 billion for CEPP, with a 50/50 cost share between the federal government and the state.

New Marine Monuments Allow for Recreational Fishing
The recreational fishing and boating community convinced the administration to differentiate public use from commercial extraction in marine waters. The result is that recreational fishing is an allowable activity in the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, located approximately 150 miles off the Massachusetts coast. In a separate action, recreational fishing was also included in the vast expansion of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. In 2006, President George W. Bush created the monument with a 50-mile boundary which excluded recreational fishing. Non-commercial fishing, such as recreational fishing, is now permitted in the 200-mile expanded area.

Kansas and Indiana Voters Approve Right to Fish and Hunt Amendments
In a landslide vote, Right to Hunt and Fish Constitutional Amendments were passed by Kansas and Indiana voters by 81 percent and 78 percent respectively. These amendments will provide permanent protections for Kansas and Indiana sportsmen and women from unwarranted closures and ensure that any laws regulating hunting and fishing are genuine conservation efforts based upon sound science. Twenty-one states now have the Right to Hunt and Fish and two more have the Right to Fish.

Mining Leases Rejected in Boundary Waters
Starting as a local issue in Minnesota, the threat posed by a sulfide mine in the Boundary Waters watershed propelled this issue to national prominence in 2016. Sometimes called “the Yellowstone of the Midwest,” the Boundary Waters are an angler’s and boater’s paradise. ASA, along with its partners and members as well as Minnesota businesses and anglers and boaters, convinced the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture to deny two mining leases in the area. The decision also started a process to withdraw key portions of the watershed from new mining permits and leases. ASA will continue to advocate during the public comment period in the coming months.

Sportfishing Industry’s Call to Protect Traditional Fishing Tackle is Heard
Last year, Congress passed a bill to exempt the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from using funds to regulate fishing tackle for fiscal year 2017. The House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees that oversee this issue separately passed annual budget bills protecting recreational fishing equipment from regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Over the past decade, several petitions have been made to the EPA to ban lead fishing tackle; despite that lead fishing tackle has never been documented to have a negative impact on fish and wildlife populations.

Improving Federal Marine Fisheries Management
Last year, NOAA Fisheries released guidelines – strongly supported by ASA – that address many of the challenges that have dogged marine fisheries management over the last decade, largely due to requirements in the law and the agency’s interpretation of them. The revised guidelines address many of the recommendations offered by ASA and others in the recreational fishing community: allowing changes to catch limits to be gradually phased in over up to three years as long as overfishing is prevented; and increasing latitude in setting timelines for rebuilding programs based on the biology of the fish stock.