A bill has been introduced into the U.S. Senate to uphold the authority of state fish and wildlife agencies and prevent unwarranted closures of fisheries, such as already occurred at North Carolina's Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Florida's Biscayne National Park.
“Given the significant economic, social, and conservation benefits that recreational fishing provides to the nation, any decision to close or restrict public access should be based on sound science and strong management principles,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association.
“While closed areas have a role in fisheries management, they should only come after legitimate consideration of all possible options and agreement among management agencies.
"This bill, which is strongly supported by the recreational fishing industry, will ensure that the voice of state fisheries agencies is not lost in these decisions.”
Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act, also known as S.2807, is similar to legislation already passed in the House as part of the Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act. It requires the National Park Service (NPS) to have approval from state agencies before closing Great Lakes or state marine waters to recreational and/or commercial fishing.
“It’s only logical that any decision affecting fishing access in state waters should have the approval of that state’s fish and wildlife agency,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “We applaud Sens. Cassidy (Bill of Louisiana) and Rubio (Marco of Florida) for introducing this common-sense legislation, and urge other members of the Senate to co-sponsor and help ensure this bill’s passage.”
In 2015, NPS implemented a 10,000-acre marine preserve in one of the nation's most popular urban fishing areas, despite protests by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The state agency said that it would be overly restrictive and not biologically effective, adding that less punitive management tools could rebuild the park's fisheries and conserve habitat.
NPS's decision to ignore Florida input and force new regulations in state waters revealed a loophole in current law that could affect any state with coastal or Great Lakes waters managed by the federal agency.