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Several sportfishing industry priorities included in FY 2025 Federal Funding Bills

by Mike Leonard 2 Jul 17:28 UTC
Washington DC © National Marine Manufacturers Association

Last week, House Appropriators introduced and quickly passed out of committee two funding bills that contain numerous provisions benefiting the sportfishing community.

The Fiscal Year 2025 Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) funding bill and the Fiscal Year 2025 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies funding bill include measures that ensure access to fishing, conserve our natural resources, and promote sustainable management practices.

Commerce, Justice, and Science Funding Bill

Protecting Access to the Snapper Grouper Fishery: Section 542 prohibits the use of funds to enforce any rule or action limiting access to the South Atlantic Snapper Grouper Fishery until a third-party scientific review of the current stock assessment for South Atlantic Red Snapper is completed. With widespread doubts that the red snapper fishery is in such a dire condition as to warrant drastic closures, this provision would ensure that any management decisions are based on the best available science, protecting anglers' access and the economic health of coastal communities reliant on this incredibly abundant fishery.

Preserving Access Amid Vessel Speed Regulations: Section 610 and Section 620 prevent the enforcement of any new vessel speed restrictions for the Rice’s Whale and North Atlantic Right Whale that were not in place before January 20, 2021. These provisions are vital for the sportfishing community, as stringent speed restrictions would effectively close access to most offshore fishing. ASA and partners are ready, willing and able to work with NOAA on meaningful, technology-based solutions to mitigate vessel strike risk. NOAA's current approach of relying entirely on speed restrictions will not result in meaningful protections for whales, but will have dire consequences for coastal communities.

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Funding Bill

Regulation of Lead in Ammunition and Tackle: Section 125 and Section 436 safeguard the use of lead fishing tackle on federal lands and waters unless it is scientifically proven that such use is causing a decline in wildlife populations. These provisions ensure that any restrictions are based on sound science and are consistent with state laws and policies. This is crucial for anglers who rely on traditional tackle, providing clarity and stability for those participating in recreational fishing.

Ensuring Access to Federal Lands: Section 440 protects the right to use federal lands for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting if such activities were allowed as of January 1, 2013. This provision ensures that anglers and hunters continue to have access to these lands, preserving outdoor traditions and supporting the economic benefits generated by these activities. Temporary closures are allowed only for specific reasons such as public safety or special events, ensuring that access is largely maintained.

ASA applauds the House Appropriations Committee, particularly Committee Chair Kay Granger (R-TX), Subcommittee Chairs Hal Rogers (R-KY), Mike Simpson (R-ID), and Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL) for including these vital provisions in the FY 2025 funding bills. These measures reflect a strong commitment to the sportfishing industry, ensuring that our nation's fisheries are managed sustainably while maintaining access for recreational anglers.

We look forward to working with House and Senate leaders to implement these crucial measures as the FY25 appropriations process moves forward, to ensure the continued success of recreational fishing across the United States.

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