An unprecedented bill, titled the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012, introduced last week in the U.S. Senate, addresses several key issues impacting millions of sport fishermen and the recreational-fishing industry.
Introduced by senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) — co-chairs of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus — the legislation is a package of 19 pro-fishing and hunting bills.
According to the American Sportfishing Association, the act will advance the conservation of fish habitat and populations and increase recreational-fishing opportunity.
Among the 19 bills within the Sportsmen’s Act the ASA mentions in particular:
• The Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act (S. 838) — Blocks ongoing attempts to ban lead in recreational-fishing equipment and ammunition by clarifying the Toxic Substances Control Act. Recent attempts to overregulate sport-fishing equipment in a non-scientific fashion by anti-fishing interests represent one of the largest threats to the sport.
• National Fish Habitat Conservation Act (S. 1201) — Authorizes the National Fish Habitat Partnership, an initiative that seeks to protect, restore and enhance fish habitat on a range-wide scale. This non-regulatory partnership is the most comprehensive effort ever attempted to voluntarily conserve freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats nationwide.
• Billfish Conservation Act (S. 1451) — Conserves declining billfish populations by prohibiting the commercial sale and importation of billfish throughout the United States, with exceptions for the state of Hawaii and the Pacific Insular Area islands to preserve traditional fisheries. It is currently illegal to harvest or import Atlantic-caught billfish into the United States, but billfish from other oceans come into U.S. markets in substantial numbers.
• Report on Artificial Reefs in the Gulf of Mexico — Requires the Department of the Interior to develop a report on its “Idle Iron” policy, which requires the removal of nonproducing drilling platforms, in order to develop a coordination strategy between agencies and states. These platforms represent the world's largest network of artificial reefs and provide habitat for marine species on an otherwise barren seafloor.
• Making Public Lands Public Act (S. 901) — Addresses one of the most significant obstacles to sport fishing – lack of access to public lands and waters. This language will increase access to angling, hunting and recreational shooting opportunities on federal lands by directing 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to ensure accessibility for fishing, hunting and other recreational activities.
"The Sportsmen's Act of 2012 is the largest, most diverse pro-sportsmen legislative package introduced in recent memory," says American Sportfishing Association Vice President Gordon Robertson. "The sportfishing industry thanks senators Tester and Thune for addressing some of the biggest issues that are affecting sportsmen and women. From improving habitat conservation to increasing public access, passage of the Sportsmen's Act of 2012 would represent one of the biggest advancements for recreational fishing in years."