While many things in Congress seem stuck, one might hope that the bi-partisan, non-controversial, Billfish Conservation Act would slide through easily. Unfortunately, but probably not surprisingly given this particular Congress, that is not the case. Consequently, the recreational community needs to stand up and let certain key Members of Congress know by phone, letter or in-person that they need to pass this important legislation, and pass it now.
A quick background: the bill was introduced in both the Senate and the House with bi-partisan support. Republicans, Democrats, Tea Party members all have provided enthusiastic endorsements. The bill (S. 1451 and HR 2706) bans the sale of billfish in the U.S. to cut off the imports coming in from places like Costa Rica, Ecuador and other Central and South American countries. Believe it or not, the United States is the number one importer of billfish products in the world! Although legal to import Pacific caught billfish into the United States, many Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico caught billfish are getting intermingled with the Pacific catch and shipped to the US. This undermines recreational billfishing efforts everywhere. It also undermines the jobs and financial benefits we receive here in America from: the sale and service of boats, the sale of tackle and other equipment for boats, the crews who operate boats, the shore-based service providers for the fishing industry, and more. There is currently no real opposition to the bill. But, we need to light more of a fire under some feet because it has not had a hearing yet in either the House or Senate, and it is getting late in the calendar.
So, how do we do this?
One way to drive the bill forward is to have influential constituents pointedly weigh in with key Committee Members to get a commitment to move the bill through the committee and to the floor.
The key Members of the House are:
Rep. Doc Hasting (R-WA) Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee;
Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) Chairman of the Fisheries Subcommittee to the Natural Resources Committee
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) he introduced the bill for us and has the most to gain from its passage
Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) he is a co-sponsor of the bill and also much to gain from passage
Key Members of the Senate are:
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa) Chairman of the Commerce Committee;
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) Ranking Member of the Commerce Committee
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) he introduced the bill for us and has the most to gain from its passage
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) he is a co-sponsor of the bill and also has much to gain from its passage;
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) he is a co-sponsor of the bill and also has much to gain from its passage.
The issue is quite simple, it is just being made complex by career bureaucrats in Washington DC. So I urge you to reach out to these Senators and Representatives, and to your local Representatives and Senators. To make the process easier, I have attached below a sample letter to send to Congressional leaders, a link to the Take Marlin Off the Menu website where additional information can be found on the need for this important legislation, and the original list of sponsors and co-sponsors in both the House and Senate.
Thanks for the help!
Dear Congressman (or Senator) insert name of Representative or Senator:
I write for two reasons. The first reason is to thank you for all you are doing for the people of insert name of state. I appreciate your public service.
Second, and more specifically, I write to endorse HR 2706 (or S. 1451 if writing to a Senator), the Billfish Conservation Act of 2011, and I am hopeful that you can quickly arrange a hearing, and secure passage, of this important legislation. Billfish populations—marlin, sailfish and spearfish—are in terrible shape because a few countries (not the US, where it is already banned) are harvesting and then exporting to the US. This bill is of utmost importance to recreational fishermen throughout insert name of state and the country.
Thanks for all you do for the citizens of insert name of state and the United States.
--------------------------Take Marlin Off the Menu website----------------------
------------Original Sponsors and Co-sponsors in the House and Senate----------
Rep Alexander, Rodney [LA-5] - 9/12/2011
Rep Bonner, Jo [AL-1] - 7/29/2011
Rep Boren, Dan [OK-2] - 7/29/2011
Rep Buchanan, Vern [FL-13]- 9/22/2011
Rep Coble, Howard [NC-6] - 9/12/2011
Rep Diaz-Balart, Mario [FL-21] - 10/4/2011
Rep Duncan, Jeff, [SC-3]- 7/29/2011
Rep Flores, Bill [TX-17] - 11/2/2011
Rep Harris, Andy [MD-1] - 11/1/2011
Rep Heinrich, Martin [NM-1] - 10/24/2011
Rep Landry, Jeffrey M. [LA-3] - 12/8/2011
Rep Latta, Robert E. [OH-5] - 7/29/2011
Rep Michaud, Michael H. [ME-2] - 7/29/2011
Rep Napolitano, Grace F. [CA-38] - 9/29/2011
Rep Palazzo, Steven M. [MS-4] - 1/31/2012
Rep Pierluisi, Pedro R. [PR] - 11/1/2011
Rep Rooney, Thomas J. [FL-16] - 9/26/2011
Rep Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana [FL-18] - 10/14/2011
Rep Ross, Mike [AR-4] - 7/29/2011
Rep Shuler, Heath [NC-11] - 7/29/2011
Rep Southerland, Steve [FL-2] - 12/6/2011
Rep Wittman, Robert J. [VA-1] - 7/29/2011
Rep Young, Don [AK] - 11/2/2011
Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA]- 11/3/2011
Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA] - 1/24/2012
Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA]- 12/6/2011
Sen McCain, John [AZ] - 7/29/2011
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)- 7/29/2011
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)- 10/17/2011
Sen Whitehouse, Sheldon [RI] - 7/29/2011
Sen Wicker, Roger F. [MS] - 1/26/2012