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September 07, 2012

The Politics Of Fish

Identifying the friends of saltwater anglers on Capitol Hill

Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla.

Steve Southerland(Agriculture, Natural Resources, Transportation)

Steve Southerland feels at home in his native Panama City captaining the family boat with his wife and four daughters. While Washington’s talking heads discuss fishing in theory, Southerland explains fishing in real life — with recent family photos as proof. He caused a stir on the House floor this spring with an amendment to the Commerce Appropriations Bill to prohibit expansion of catch-share programs in fisheries along the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. His amendment passed 220-191 with bipartisan support. Southerland is small-business owner serving his first term in office, but he’s already a leader on his three committees. An active member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, Southerland was original co-author of both the Fishery Science Improvement Act and the Billfish Conservation Act.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

John Tester(Banking, Appropriations, Indian Affairs, Homeland Security, Veterans’ Affairs)

A humble leader for anglers and hunters, Jon Tester co-chairs the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. Tester is a rancher and outspoken leader for rural America. Many of the accomplishments in this Congress for anglers are a direct result of Tester standing tall. In the closing months of this Congress, he spearheaded the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012, which addressed the needs of sportsmen all across the country. Tester addressed several anglers’ top ­legislative priorities in one fell swoop. In the Sportsmen’s Act, with chief co-sponsor Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), he included: Rigs to Reefs language compelling the federal government to re-examine the removal of artificial reefs from the ocean; a bill blocking ongoing attempts to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to ban lead tackle; the Billfish Conservation Act; plus language to establish the National Fish Habitat Partnership, the most comprehensive effort ever attempted to voluntarily conserve freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats nationwide. Sen. Tester is also the chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Policy.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

David Vitter(Banking, Armed Services, Environment and Public Works, Small Business)

Named 2012 Conservationist of the Year by the Center for Coastal Conservation, David Vitter has long been a leader for recreational fishing. He’s been a champion for anglers on issue after issue. Vitter is lead author of the Rigs to Reefs Protection Act and of the Billfish Conservation Act, and he was an original co-sponsor of the Fishery Science Improvement Act. He has also been a leader on the RESTORE Act. He and Sen. Landrieu work well together for Louisiana’s fishermen. Vitter is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Economic Policy and a strong supporter of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va.

Rob Whittman(Natural Resources, Armed Services)

When anglers enter Rob Wittman’s office on Capitol Hill, they are taken aback by the 300-pound yellowfin on his wall. “Stand-up tackle,” explains the congressman. It is then you know that you are visiting a real fisherman. He probably wields a gaff better than any other member of Congress. Wittman represents recreational and commercial fishermen in Virginia’s First District. He identified the problems with MSA implementation early in his service in Congress and quickly stepped up to lead the charge in the House to pass the Fishery Science Improvement Act. 

A co-sponsor of the Billfish Conservation Act, Wittman has been a ­stalwart supporter of conservation. He will be vice chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus in 2013. Wittman has been a champion for the Chesapeake Bay, as well as a strong advocate for our men and women in uniform. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 from the Center for Coastal Conservation.