02 Feb Opinion: Fighting the Good Fight Pays Off
OP-Ed appeared in the Newport Daily News 1/7/19
This year the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the fishing law of this nation, was under attack by those who wanted to take more fish, making the law that has already restored over 40 species less effective to the detriment of fish and fishermen. Two bill versions of what was commonly called the Modern Fish Act, one in the U.S. House (H.R. 2023) and a different second version in the Senate (S. 1520) were introduced. Additionally, H.R.200, which included pieces of the Modern Fish Act and made additional harmful changes to the MSA, was also introduced.
Thankfully, I have two pieces of good news. The first, which I am very thankful for, is that H.R. 200, which passed the House on party lines, did not gain any traction in the Senate. The bill contained many harmful provisions intended to weaken the existing law which would have made it harder to grow fish to abundance so there are more in the water for all to catch and eat.
The second piece of good news is that at the 11th hour, as the Senate was considering their version of the Modern Fish Act (S.1520), our senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, working with senators in New England and across the country had most of the bad anti-conservation provisions contained in the bill removed before its passage. In early January President Trump signed this revised version of the bill into law.
Although the Senate bill S.1520 is not perfect, and some smaller issues still remain, the bill has been significantly changed to remove the most harmful provisions that were originally in the bill at introduction.
Harmful provisions deleted from S.1520 have allowed important conservation provisions to remain in effect within the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Annual catch limit requirements are still in place, conservation measures needed to regulate overfished species are still in place, we will continue to have a balanced process to address reallocation of catch from sectors moving forward, and fishers will still have the ability to utilize Exempted Fishing Permits (EFPs) as a way to explore new and innovative management tools.
This win would not have been possible without the tremendous effort of conservation-minded senators like Reed and Whitehouse (and their staffs) who were willing to engage colleagues in the Senate to oppose the harmful provisions in the original bill. Our sustainable fisheries champions in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have done tremendous work over the past two years to negotiate language changes, doing a great job to ensure a strong Magnuson-Stevens Act.
This is not the last we will hear of bills that make changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. In 2019, we expect to continue to defend a strong MSA, and are hopeful for more bipartisan cooperation in the name of sustainable or even abundant fishing. Recreational fishing is an important contributor to the Rhode Island economy. In fact, it is just a bit larger than commercial fishing. If and when reauthorization comes up in 2019, we are in good hands with our federally-elected representatives here in Rhode Island.
Senators and Representatives in Rhode Island, thank you for your efforts. You fought the good fight and it paid off for the fish and fishermen throughout the United States of America.
Peter Jenkins is owner of the Saltwater Edge in Middletown, a saltwater fishing outfitter, tackle shop and online business that specializes in surf, fly and light tackle fishing. He is an active member of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association serving on the 2018 Southern New England Recreational Fishing Symposium committee and heads up their public access subcommittee.