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Entries in Congress (46)


Congress Considers Future for Gulf Red Snapper Fishery

The future of red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico was on the line yesterday in Washington, D.C, as the House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans will debated HR. 3094--- the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act. This legislation, sponsored by Garret Graves (R-La.), would shift management of red snapper from the federal government and allow the states to manage the entire fishery.

 “We learned a few things in today’s hearing, but the take-home message is that federal management of the Gulf red snapper remains mired in chaos," said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, following the haring.

"We learned that the recreational angling community and all five Gulf States stand united in favor of state management of red snapper. Despite a wave of pre-hearing propaganda, we learned that most charter operators are in favor of the state management because they, too, want an end to the current federal management program of privatization."

Meanwhile, NOAA wants anglers to ignore what they see every day in the Gulf, Angers said, adding that the federal agency "asked Congress to believe that the snapper stock is still only half rebuilt and will not fully recover until 2032."

In other words, the federal government wants to continue to deny reasonable access to recreational anglers, continuing seasons that are 10 days or possibly even shorter. Meanwhile, using  a "catch shares" strategy of divide and conquer in privatizing a public resource, it is supported by the commercial fishing industry and a small group of charter captains who are guaranteed "shares" of the fishery.

"The management agency for every Gulf state has come to the same conclusion as recreational anglers--- federal management of red snapper is a failure," Angers said.

"Recreational anglers--- the people who go fishing on weekends and holidays with their kids and families--- have no voice in federal fisheries management. The recreational community is united in its conviction that the states will bring balance back into the red snapper fishery to do what is necessary to manage it both for the benefit of everyone - commercial, for-hire and recreational anglers--- and for the health of the resource."

Businesses have "relentlessly manipulated the federal system and have already been given personal ownership of a percentage of the red snapper fishery or are on their way to being gifted a share to use as their own, however and whenever they want," said Sport Fishing.

“It is not fair that America’s sportsmen who voluntarily give $1.5 billion annually toward rebuilding fish species and protecting their habitat are being kept at the water’s edge now that the snapper population is healthy again," Angers said.

“Congress should act quickly to pass this important measure that will give legal recognition to the historic cooperative agreement by the Fish and Wildlife agencies of the five Gulf States -- Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas -- to assume management of the Gulf red snapper.”


Bill Introduced to Block NPS Plan to Restrict Access at Biscayne National Park

Following the National Park Service's (NPS) decision to close more than 10,000 acres of Biscayne National Park to fishing,  a bipartisan bill, H.R. 3310,  has been introduced in Congress to help stop this and similar unwarranted fishing closures from occurring.

Led by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), and 28 other original sponsors, the “Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act” requires the NPS and Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to have approval from state fish and wildlife agencies before closing state waters to recreational or commercial fishing.

“Probably the most concerning aspect of the Biscayne National Park marine reserve decision is the total disregard for the fisheries management expertise of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,” said Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy director for the American Sportfishing Association.

 “The states are responsible for nearly all of our nation’s saltwater fisheries management successes. This legislative safeguard will prevent the federal government from ignoring the fisheries management expertise of the states in these types of situations.”

Throughout the development of the General Management Plan for Biscayne National Park, through which the marine reserve is being implemented, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has provided detailed recommendations to improve the condition of the fisheries resources in the park. The Commission has continually insisted that the proposed marine reserve is overly restrictive to the public and will not be biologically effective.

 It also argues that less restrictive management tools can rebuild the park’s fisheries resources and conserve habitat.

The recreational fishing and boating community has echoed these concerns, but nevertheless the National Park Service ultimately elected to close nearly 40 percent of the park’s reef tract to fishing.

“The Congressional leaders who are sponsoring this bill are to be commended for this common sense approach to protect saltwater anglers from unwarranted access restrictions,” said Chris Horton, Fisheries Program director for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “The Biscayne National Park marine reserve is part of a concerning trend of closing marine areas without scientific basis or an understanding of the critical role anglers play in the economy and in funding conservation.”

“Marine reserves are a tool in the fisheries management toolbox, but too often we see them promoted with questionable-at-best motivations,” said Jeff Miller, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association Florida’s Government Relations Committee. “This bill will ensure that Florida has a say in important fisheries management decisions in Biscayne National Park, including marine reserves, and that similar issues don’t arise in other parts of the state and country.”

Today the  House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Small Business will hold a joint hearing to explore the potential implications of lost access due to the Biscayne marine reserve.


BASS, Other Groups Urge Restoration of Funding for Fisheries 

B.A.S.S., along with 30 other conservation organizations, has signed a letter urging Congress to restore funding for sportfishing projects suffering under the current federal budget impasse.

“The letter asks Congress to get off ‘high center’ and do its job, pass a budget and fund conservation programs,” said B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland, “especially including the Sport Fish Restoration Act which is the most important bill up for reauthorization from the freshwater fisheries management standpoint.”

The letter to leaders and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, was sent Tuesday afternoon on behalf of 31 conservation organizations. It stated:
“The undersigned sportsmen, conservation, outdoor recreation business and resource professional organizations, collectively representing millions of American hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts would like to urge the Congress to start in earnest the process of a bipartisan and bicameral budget deal that lifts the sequester and can begin to reinvest in absolutely critical conservation funding priorities.
“As you know, the expiration of the Murray-Ryan budget deal in just a few short months raises the distinct possibility of a return to sequester-level funding for the domestic discretionary programs that are essential to so many segments of economic growth and job creation. When it comes to the outdoor recreation economy, Budget Control Act funding levels are simply inadequate, and in many cases push a backlog of costs onto future generations of Americans.
“As conservation has shrunk as a percentage of the federal budget by half from 1978 until today, the outdoor recreation economy has continued to grow; but that phenomenon is unlikely to endure. If investments in recreation, habitat restoration, access improvement, and facility maintenance continue to fall, we can likely expect the health of the American $646 billion outdoor recreation economy, which employs millions, and puts billions into federal, state, and local tax coffers to suffer.
“The impact of insufficient funding is clear: shuttered visitor’s centers, unmaintained trails, closed campgrounds, reduced staff, and degraded habitat. These reductions in service keep Americans from enjoying the outdoors to their fullest potential, and in so doing, unnecessarily constrain an entire segment of the American economy, perhaps most pointedly in the rural countryside most dependent on the annual spending of hunters and anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

"Furthermore, the Wildlife Restoration and Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Funds (Trust Funds) are a user pays – public benefits system of fish and wildlife conservation derived from hunters, recreational shooters, anglers and boaters instead of federal income tax dollars. As mandatory programs, the Trust Funds are already being sequestered, and the sequestration rate is expected to increase to 8.5 percent in FY2016. These Trust Funds are the lifeblood of many state resource agency operating budgets, and any bipartisan budget deal should address the issue of sequestering these critical trust funds.

“Many of our organizations applauded the Murray-Ryan budget deal, and likewise we stand ready to support the next iteration of the bipartisan budget leadership necessary to keep American outdoor traditions alive for many future generations.”
Among other fishing and hunting organizations signing onto the letter were the American Fisheries Society, American Sportfishing Association, Berkley Conservation Institute, Coastal Conservation Association, Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League of America, National Wild Turkey Federation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.


Anglers Should Support Improving Magnuson-Stevens

As progress is made to better manage the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery, with the likelihood of more angling opportunities for recreational anglers, the Environmental Defense Fund and others who want to restrict access are stepping up their well-funded opposition.

That's why Jeff Angers at the Center for Coastal Conservation encourages fishermen  to talk to their elected officials  during August, urging them to support improving the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

He also points out that, despite its misleading name, the Charter Fisherman's Association does not represent most charter captains in the Gulf.

Here's more from Angers:

In the last six weeks, we’ve made more progress toward improving the Magnuson-Stevens Act on behalf of recreational anglers than at any time in the last six years. 

When you look at how far we’ve come -- passage by the full U.S. House of Representatives of Magnuson-Stevens modernization, approval by the Senate Commerce Committee of the Rubio-Nelson Fisheries Management bill, and introduction just last week of Rep. Garret Graves’ H.R.3094 bipartisan legislation to recognize the Gulf States’ historic cooperative plan for improved red snapper fishery management -- there’s no question we are gaining major yardage.
That’s why the shrill rhetoric of our adversaries is reaching new heights.
Vastly unpopular in the Gulf region, the Environmental Defense Fund must operate under pseudonyms. One alias (of many) is the “Charter Fisherman’s Association.” Heavily funded by the Washington mega-lobbyists at EDF, when CFA speaks, it’s EDF money doing the talking -- and this week, they’ve been doing a lot of it.
My friend Bob Zales is the well-known president of the Panama City Boatmen Association with real-life bona fides as president of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO).

Bob’s perspective: “If you poll the 1,300 federally permitted charter vessel owners in the Gulf, over two-thirds would support the proposed five Gulf State plan and legislation recently introduced in the House.” 

Zales added, “Charter Fisherman's Association is an Environmental Defense Fund-created and -funded association to help push the EDF agenda.  Their membership does not represent the majority of charter boat owners in the Gulf.  They are heavily financed by EDF so are able to make a lot of noise in key areas.  The grassroots charter boat owners are not able to be heard as loudly since they cannot afford to travel to D.C., all of the Gulf Council meetings, or areas where a few who are financially supported can.”

Zales speaks the truth. Federally permitted charter owners know, just like we do, that federal Gulf red snapper fishery management is badly broken. These hard-working folks are no more supportive of the status quo than we are, and they trust the states to do a better job, just like we do. 

Still, EDF’s money buys a lot of talk and we have to make sure our representatives and senators hear the truth.
We’re making progress, but we can’t stop now.  Now is the time to redouble our efforts to seek out our elected representatives when they conduct town hall meetings or hold office hours during the upcoming August Congressional Recess.
Tell your elected representatives how important it is to modernize the Magnuson-Stevens Act so recreational anglers like us can have a fair shake.  Remind them of the jobs we create and the money we contribute to fisheries conservation.
Tell them, “I fish -- I fish and I vote."


Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation Endorsed by CCC

The Center for Coastal Conservation has endorsed Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation (BASC), a new online advocacy system that allows fishing enthusiasts to write, call, or tweet their federal officials easily and intuitively.  The BASC site -- -- was launched on June 1 by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, B.A.S.S.

“It is more important than ever that America’s 46 million anglers make our voices heard, and Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation will make it easy for us to do so,” said Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers, calling the new B.A.S.S. initiative “a powerful new advocacy tool.”

“Whether you fish in saltwater or freshwater, I encourage you to visit today and speak out about the sport we love,” Angers added.

At, fishing enthusiasts can contact their members of Congress by email, call, or Tweet.  The site provides both informational talking points and prewritten materials, so that anglers can reach out with ease to their federal officials.

Angers said he is hopeful the fishing community will use to urge Congress and President Obama to protect recreational access to thriving fish stocks.

“With Congress considering the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the primary legislation affecting recreational fishing in federal waters , and with Washington imposing unrealistic restrictions on fishing from the Carolinas to Biscayne Bay and the Gulf of Mexico,  it’s time we as anglers make our voices heard,” Angers said.