U.S. Senate committee endorses Modern Fish Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal bill proposing to update oversight of federal fisheries, improve data collection techniques and review fishery allocations earned the approval of a U.S. Senate committee, Feb. 28. The Modern Fish Act, as the bill is known, could soon move to the entire Senate for a vote.

Members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation reviewed, marked up and approved the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 during a Feb. 28 hearing on Capitol Hill.

Advocacy groups such as the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), Center for Sportfishing Policy and National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) were among those who celebrated the passage and hoped the Modern Fish Act would ultimately be signed into law. They’ve argued the current system of fishery management and data collection is antiquated and based on “decades-old decisions.”

“This legislation calls for critically important updates to the oversight of federal fisheries, including adding more tools to the management toolbox, improving data collection techniques, and examining some fishery allocations that are based on decades-old decisions,” a Center for Sportfishing Policy press release stated shortly after the Modern Fish Act successfully came out of its first committee vote.

“A broad coalition of organizations representing the saltwater recreational fishing and boating community has endorsed the Modern Fish Act and highlighted the importance of updating the nation’s fisheries management system to more accurately distinguish between recreational and commercial fishing,” the release continued.

Some, conversely, wonder if the Modern Fish Act is politically motivated, prioritizing special interests ahead of the everyday angler.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has been on the record stating current plans to update the Magnuson-Stevens Act – more commonly referred to as the MSA – might not improve the current state of federal fisheries but instead cause added confusion.

Someone commenting on a Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership blog questioned whether the Modern Fish Act proposal would address the West Coast’s sea lion and seal populations.

“We need to address the sea lion and seal population on the West Coast and the damage the sea lion and seal population has on endangered species in Washington State,” James Cowart wrote on the blog, which was posted shortly after the Modern Fish Act’s approval in committee.

The Modern Fish Act (S. 1520) was introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2017. A sister bill was introduced in the House of Representatives last year. Pres. Donald J. Trump would receive the bill on his desk should the Senate and House of Representatives come to terms of what should be included – or not included – in the final Modern Fish Act.

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