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Federal Funding Bill Includes Important Advances for Marine Fisheries

Published By OutdoorsFIRST Media
Published August 2, 2017

August 2, 2017 - Alexandria, VA - The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) thanks Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS), for including several important provisions that will benefit marine fisheries management and data collection in the Fiscal Year 2018 CJS appropriations bill.

The bill, which provides funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) among other agencies, was recently passed by the full committee.

"Through Sen. Shelby's and the Senate Appropriations Committee leadership, the CJS appropriations bill makes many important improvements to federal marine fisheries management and conservation in the Gulf of Mexico and nationwide," said Scott Gudes, ASA's Government Affairs vice president. "The bill largely maintains and enhances funding for critical fisheries science and management programs and promotes new technology and support for state-led management approaches to ensure improved public access to fisheries resources."

Specific provisions highlighted by ASA include:
  • Red Snapper State Management Pilot Programs - Provides NOAA more flexibility to allow Gulf States to lead management of reef fish, including red snapper, in designated zones over artificial reefs in federal waters, "notwithstanding any other provision of law."
  • Red Snapper Independent Stock Assessment - Provides up to $5 million to continue independent, non-NOAA stock assessments for Gulf reef fish including red snapper. Directs NOAA to count fish on artificial reefs and offshore energy exploration infrastructure, incorporate those counts into future stock assessments and management decisions for Gulf reef fish.
  • Red Snapper Allowable Catch - Urges NOAA to provide an increased allocation of Gulf red snapper to private recreational anglers should the total allowable catch of red snapper increase above a certain threshold. This would help provide relief for recreational anglers that have been especially impacted by NOAA's misguided regulations.
  • Red Snapper and the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) - Requires NOAA to develop and present a report that will allow mobile apps and an internet option for recreational fishermen to report catch data. The current recreational harvest data collection program, MRIP, uses a random system of calling land-lines and relying on mail responses to determine recreational fishing data. Meanwhile, several states have utilized mobile phone applications to capture recreational fishing data with more accuracy and efficiency. The bill report requires NOAA to address these other options and use them to augment or replace MRIP.
  • Better Consideration of Socioeconomic Impacts - NOAA is obligated under the Magnuson-Stevens Act to factor socio-economic impacts into its fisheries management decisions; unfortunately, most decisions fail to take into account important socio-economic considerations because this information has not been quantified and made available to managers. The bill report requires NOAA to develop procedures for how socioeconomic information could be better considered and weighed in fisheries management decisions.
Gudes added, "Sen. Shelby has again demonstrated his strong support for the recreational fishing industry and an understanding of the importance of recreational fishing to the nation."

The full CJS bill can be viewed here and the accompanying report can be viewed here.