April 24, 2013 (Washington, DC) - This morning, the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) was joined by nine members of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (CSC) and representatives of the recreational fishing community at a breakfast briefing on Capitol Hill. The briefing addressed the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) and highlighted the necessity for enhanced considerations of the value of the marine recreational fishery. The briefing concluded with a specific focus on the current dilemma that recreational anglers are encountering with red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.
An array of speakers, including members of the CSC and leaders of the recreational fishing community, highlighted issues related to MSA and laid out a course of action for the reauthorization of the MSA in the 113thCongress.
Chris Horton, CSF's Midwest Regional Director, opened the briefing by introducing Jeff Angers, member of the CSF Board of Directors and President of the Center for Coastal Conservation. Angers noted, "MSA is the overarching federal law governing marine fisheries. As the MSA expires this year, the recreational fishing community notes with clarity that it's time for Congress to focus on an MSA reauthorization that properly addresses management of the marine recreational fishery."
As an avid fisherman, CSC Co-Chair Representative Bennie Thompson (Miss.) asked the audience and fellow members of the CSC to come together for the resource. "We need your help, and I ask you as a member of the CSC and as a fisherman to set good public policy. This is an opportunity to do so." Representative Bob Latta (Ohio), a fellow CSC Co-Chair echoed Representative Thompson's call to action for responsible legislation."It takes everyone in this room to get this bill across. I appreciate your support in the reauthorization and educating not only fellow members of the CSC, but other members of Congress on this topic."
Representative Rob Wittman (Va.) spoke in detail on MSA and the need for science-based state and federal management of the nation's fisheries. "If you manage with the best science and most recent information, what you find is that the user of the resources becomes your best advocate based on the most current findings. Intuitively, it is hard for the fisherman to see how the MSA is working. Decision-makers need to understand the resources and what is at stake in order to better conserve resources such as our nation's fisheries," Representative Wittman stated.
Matt Paxton of the Coastal Conservation Association spoke to the group on recreational angling needs in the upcoming MSA reauthorization and specifically the failure of the current management with Gulf red snapper. "This red snapper mess is unacceptable and an unintended consequence of the last reauthorization; it is something that should be rectified."
CCA's Dick Brame spoke to the successes of state-based striped bass management along the Atlantic Coast and how it can serve as a potential model for red snapper management in the Gulf. "There are successful recreational management programs already in place," said Dick Brame. "Why reinvent the wheel? The interstate cooperation in the Atlantic States is not perfect but it provides a smart, workable model."
As the primary statute governing fishing activities in federal waters, MSA expires at the end of fiscal year 2013. Several provisions in the last reauthorization of MSA in 2006 are beyond the capabilities of the National Marine Fisheries Service to adequately implement. The result has been a confusing series of non-science-based restrictions on America's recreational anglers that have greatly eroded trust in the federal management system and significantly reduced recreational fishing opportunities.
The most glaring examples can be found in the South Atlantic black sea bass fishery and in the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery, both of which are enduring extremely short seasons and strict regulations despite strong population recoveries.
In the Gulf, NOAA Fisheries declared that in 2013 recreational anglers in Texas will have a 12-day red snapper season in federal waters; 9 days in Louisiana; 28 days in Mississippi and Alabama, and 21 days in Florida. With a stock that is recovering steadily, recreational anglers are being allowed to fish less and less, and there is no hint of willingness from NMFS to deviate from this present, unsatisfactory course.
The governors of four Gulf States released a joint letter to Congressional leaders that states current federal management of Gulf red snapper is evidence of a system that is "irretrievably broken," and calls for passage of legislation that would replace it with a coordinated Gulf states partnership for red snapper management.
The breakfast briefing was co-hosted by the American Sportfishing Association, the Coastal Conservation Association, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the Center for Coastal Conservation, the International Game Fish Association, and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.