Improved Fishing Access Gaining Momentum in Congress

The Modern Fish Act, introduced in U.S. Senate, is a companion to a similar bill introduced in the House

improved fishing access in federal waters
The “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017," originally proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives, now has a companion bill in the Senate where it is gaining support.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Washington, D.C. — The Modern Fish Act is gaining momentum in the United States Congress.

A bill similar to the proposed law introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives in April was introduced to the Senate this week. It has received praise from recreational fishing and boating groups after its introduction.

Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), John Kennedy (R-La.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) authored the bill, titled "Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017." Its goal is to improve public access to federal waters, increase conservation efforts of natural marine resources and boost economic growth. H.R. 2023 is the U.S. House of Representatives' companion bill, introduced by Congressmen Garret Graves (R-La.), Gene Green (D-Texas), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.).

Many of the supporting groups have been hoping for changes to management policies for years.

Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, praised the effort as a "commitment to modernizing federal recreational fishing management."

“Recreational fishing is a tradition worth safeguarding," Angers continued in his statement, "through proper management policies and a critical component of the U.S. economy, with an annual economic contribution of $63-plus billion. With a bipartisan bill introduced in both chambers, we are hopeful the Congress will ensure all Americans have fair and reasonable access to our nation’s marine resources by passing the Modern Fish Act.”

The American Sportfishing Association said in a press release about the bill that recreational anglers have long "been hindered by antiquated policies that restrict access to public waters, hurt the U.S. economy and detract from conservation goals. The Modern Fish Act addresses many of the challenges faced by recreational anglers, including allowing alternative management tools for recreational fishing, re-examining fisheries allocations, smartly rebuilding fish stocks and improving recreational data collection." The group's president, Mike Nussman, also spoke in favor of the proposed policy.

“This bipartisan legislation includes key provisions that will adapt federal fisheries management to manage recreational fishing in a way that better achieves conservation and public access goals," Nussman stated in the ASA's press release. "Recreational fishing provides many economic, social and conservation benefits to the nation, and with this legislation, the federal fisheries management system will better realize those benefits.”

Another group siding with the bill is the National Marine Manufacturers Association. President Thom Dammrich said this bill, if passed, "will modernize the federal regulations governing access to the public's natural resources by boaters and anglers."

Other leaders cited as supporting this legislation include Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association; Jim Donofrio, Recreational Fishing Alliance executive director; and Jeff Crane, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation President.