WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States Senate passed a bill to amend the Billfish Conservation Act of 2012, a move that is receiving overwhelming praise from conservation groups and recreational anglers.
Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.); Marco Rubio (R-Fla.); Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Joe Manchin, III (D-W.Va.) sponsored the legislation, which passed by a voice vote on Monday, October 2.
Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, thanked the four senators for leading the bill through the process and added, "The passage of S. 396 brings us one step closer to closing the U.S. market for billfish and protecting these majestic fish as Congress originally intended five years ago.”
The act banned the importation of all billfish caught by foreign fleets into the continental United States inspired other countries to pursue similar conservation efforts. However, questions arose regarding billfish caught commercially in Hawaii, not part of mainland United States yet still part of the country. The amendment clarifies that billfish landed in Hawaii must be retained there.
Jason Schratwieser, conservation director for the International Game Fish Association, said the intent of the Billfish Conservation Act was to protect billfish, "not to remove a foreign market and supplant it with a domestic one."
The bill now will go to the House of Representatives and, if passed, becomes law. Prior to the act, the United States was the top importer of billfish in the world. The coalition of groups supporting the Billfish Conservation Act includes American Sportfishing Association, The Billfish Foundation, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, OCEARCH and Wild Oceans.
“The sportfishing industry is grateful for the action taken by the U.S. Senate to ensure adherence to the original intent of Congress when the Billfish Conservation Act was first passed,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. “Recreationally caught billfish provide significant economic benefits to the nation and must be conserved for the benefit of current and future generations.”