Recre­ational fish­ing rules to be over­hauled

Texarkana Gazette - - METRO / STATE - By Pa­trick Whit­tle

The rules that gov­ern recre­ational ma­rine fish­ing in the U.S. will get an over­haul due to a new law passed by Congress, and the coun­try’s mil­lions of an­glers and the groups that stake their liveli­hoods on them hope the changes will bring bet­ter man­age­ment.

The new stan­dards are part of a suite of changes that pro­po­nents call the Modern Fish Act that were ap­proved by the House and Se­nate in De­cem­ber. Sup­port­ers of the new rules have said they will boost an in­dus­try that con­trib­utes bil­lions to the econ­omy, though some mem­bers of the fish­ing in­dus­try felt deeper rule changes were war­ranted.

The pas­sage is a “big step to­ward im­ple­ment­ing sci­ence-based meth­ods” and “marks the first sub­stan­tial up­date to the fed­eral fish­eries man­age­ment sys­tem in more than a decade,” said Nicole Vasi­laros, senior vice pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Ma­rine Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, a boat­ing in­dus­try trade group.

The author of the pro­posal, Mis­sis­sippi Repub­li­can Sen. Roger Wicker, said one of the key fea­tures of the law is that it prom­ises to help the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion in­cor­po­rate data from fish­er­men, which he said would im­prove time­li­ness and ac­cu­racy. The data help in­form fish­ing rules and reg­u­la­tions.

The pro­posal also en­cour­ages re­gional fish­ery man­age­ment coun­cils to up­date poli­cies for some recre­ational an­glers who fish in the Gulf of Mex­ico, one of the most pop­u­lar bod­ies of wa­ter among sport fish­er­men.

The cur­rent rules are de­signed for com­mer­cial fish­er­men and are dif­fi­cult for recre­ational an­glers to fol­low, Wicker said. There are also a host of other tweaks de­signed to more ef­fi­ciently man­age recre­ational fish­ing.

“Pas­sage of the Modern Fish Act will boost our con­ser­va­tion ef­forts and ben­e­fit the lo­cal economies that de­pend on recre­ational fish­ing,” Wicker said.

Recre­ational fish­ing is a huge in­dus­try in the U.S., with trade groups tout­ing more than 40 mil­lion li­censed fish­er­men and an im­pact on the econ­omy well above $100 bil­lion.

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