Sport Fish Restoration Program could expire in 2016

By: Parimal M. Rohit

NATIONWIDE — The clock is ticking for federal lawmakers to adopt the Highway Trust Fund Act of 2015. If the act is not approved by May 31, the fund could become insolvent. The Sport Fish Restoration Trust Fund might also dry, meaning states would not be able to rely upon federal money to fund programs promoting angler access, boating safety and fish conservation.

The Wallop-Breaux Act, which supports the Sport Fish Restoration Trust Fund, is set to expire in 2016 unless it is reauthorized with the Highway Trust Fund Act of 2015.

Congress helps fund state-level boating and fishing programs through the Wallop-Breaux Act, which assesses a 10 percent excise tax on fishing equipment collects a portion of federal motorboat fuel taxes paid by boaters and anglers.

Interestingly enough, the Wallop-Breaux Act can only be reauthorized with the Highway Trust Fund, since some of the funds used to promote boating and fishing programs come from motor fuel taxes.

Officially the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund (SFRBTF), Congress directs money from the trust fund to help pay for the monitoring of fisheries, habit conservation and restoration, angler and boat access, and educational programs promoting boater safety.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) identified the SFRBTF as “the most valuable federal legislation for anglers and fishery resources,” as it provides millions of dollars annually for boating programs and fish restoration.

An ASA report stated SFRBTF allocated $365 million of its $650 million in revenues to sport fish restoration and angler access in 2010.

A flyer published in advance of this month’s American Boating Congress meeting urged anglers and boaters to campaign their elected representatives to renew SFRBTF.

“The Sport Fish Restoration & Boating Trust Fund, serves as the backbone for conservation funding in the United States,” the flyer, published by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), said. “The Trust Fund is vital to state and national recreational fishing and boating programs, including” recreational boating safety programs; fisheries management; habitat conservation; vessel pump-out stations; water and boating access infrastructure programs; and, aquatic resource education programs, among others.”

Here in California, the trust fund helps pay for the state’s Fishing in the City Program.

According to a California State Senate Resolution adopted in September 2012, states have received more than $13 billion in aid since 1939 for local fish and wildlife conservation through the sport fish trust fund.

“The funds raised under the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program have helped conserve our fish and wildlife resources and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation for more than half a century,” the 2012 California resolution, which was authored by State Sen. Tom Berryhill, said. “These investments, which help create jobs while protecting California’s natural treasures, are particularly important in these tough economic times.”

Berryhill’s resolution added one of the positive impacts of the trust fund was the conservation of a salmon fishery here in California.

Specifically, Berryhill’s resolution pointed out the state received more than $1 million to fund a Central Valley Angler Survey, which helped set salmon harvest quotas and conserve a fishery supporting 500,000 anglers and contributing $167 million in economic impact.

Stay tuned to The Log and FishRap about the progress of this legislation, whether the trust fund is reauthorized and how anglers and boaters in California would be impacted if the restoration program expires next year.

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