Modern Fish Act clears House of Reps, moves to U.S. Senate

First major hurdle for national fishing reform is in rear view mirror.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Supporters of the Modern Fish Act (H.R. 200) earned a massive victory on July 11, when the House of Representatives voted to approve Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017. U.S. Senators are now reviewing H.R. 200, which if signed into law, would affect the nation’s saltwater angling community.

The Modern Fish Act, which would make changes to a law governing fish in federal waters, has been hailed as either a necessary update to an archaic set of regulations or as being the exact opposite of modern.

House members were originally scheduled to vote on the Modern Fish Act on June 26, but the vote was delayed until after the Fourth of July recess. Votes were finally lodged on July 11, allowing the proposal to head to the Senate. The final vote was 222 in favor and 193 against.

H.R. 200 was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation shortly after it made it out of the House.

Proponents of the bill say the Modern Fish Act would stabilize and strengthen recreational fishing activities nationwide by facilitating flexibility in fishery management.

“The Modern Fish Act seeks to change recreational fishing regulations and permit more regulation on the state level. It has bipartisan support, but is opposed by some commercial fishing interests and conservation organizations,” John Richard Chapman III, an attorney with Holland and Knight, wrote on his law firm’s blog about H.R. 200’s House passage.

Chapman added 135 marine industry executives expressed their support of the Modern Fish Act, which would alter federal regulations governing recreational saltwater anglers, to members of the House.

“The Modern Fish Act … would eliminate federally-set recreational annual catch limits for fish species that are not currently overfished,” Chapman wrote on his blog. “Proponents laud that it will provide recreational anglers reasonable access to public resources, while ensuring sustainable fisheries.”

The Fort Lauderdale attorney who specializes in litigation, dispute resolution and condominium development acknowledged the Modern Fish Act’s opposition in his blog post.

“Opponents of the bill argue that it lacks the certainty imposed by the current regulations, and creates too many unclear exceptions to mandatory timelines to rebuild overfished stocks. These mandatory timelines exist in the current law under the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” Chapman wrote.

“Further uncertainties are highlighted by the bill’s detractors, such as whether states have the ability to effectively manage fish that inhabit and travel across state lines and whether recreational data will be reliable for conservation decisions going forward,” the Holland and Knight attorney continued.

Audubon Pennsylvania, a nonprofit aiming to “conserve and restore natural ecosystems,” claimed the Modern Fish Act would be harmful to coastal communities if enacted as currently proposed.

“This bill undermines the science-based management of fisheries that has kept fish populations stable in America for years, and is the reason that the U.S. has emerged as the world leader in sustainable fisheries management,” Audubon Pennsylvania said about the Modern Fish Act through an official statement shortly after the House of Representatives vote. “If the Modern Fish Act is implemented, and overfishing occurs, there would be no adequate management procedures in place. The result: devastated fish populations and starving seabirds and marine wildlife that depend on them.”

It is unclear when the full Senate would vote on H.R. 200. The bill would go to Pres. Donald J. Trump’s desk for signature only of both houses of Congress come to terms on a final proposal.


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