Dania Beach, FL- Recreational anglers and ocean conservationists scored a big victory in Congress Monday as the Billfish Conservation Act passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives. The bill still must pass the Senate where it has the support of both Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio as well as David Vitter of Louisiana and numerous other Senators from both parties.
The bill, H.R. 2706, was introduced in the House by Florida Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL) and has since received overwhelming bi-partisan support. Rob Kramer, President of the International Game Fish Association, said: "Now we are very close to getting the Billfish legislation to the President's desk, which would help turn the tide on rapidly declining stocks of sailfish, marlin and spearfish. This is great news for recreational anglers and for people working in tourism, sportfishing and marine businesses."
According to Ken Hinman, President of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, "The U.S. already has the world's strongest conservation measures in place for billfish. This legislation will help us seek similar measures internationally, where commercial overfishing for billfish has severely depleted populations."
Kramer commends Florida Congressman Jeff Miller for everything he's done for marine jobs and recreational anglers in Florida and throughout the country. "Now we look forward to working with our Senate champions to pass this historic legislation," he adds.
The legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC), Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME), Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL), and Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK).
In the Senate, the legislation was introduced by Senator David Vitter (R-LA), and co-sponsored by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). It would prohibit the sale of all billfish (marlin, sailfish and spearfish) in the United States, while still allowing for traditional fisheries within the State of Hawaii and the Pacific Insular Area. Swordfish are not included in the prohibition.
Marlin, sailfish and spearfish, collectively called billfish, are some of the world's most majestic marine fish. They are apex predators that play a critical role in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems. Billfish are also highly esteemed by recreational anglers the world over, and catch-and-release fisheries for these species support many marine jobs and generate billions of dollars to the U.S. economy.
Unfortunately, the world's billfish stocks are seriously imperiled from non-U.S. commercial fishing. Recently, as a result of these population declines, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature listed blue and white marlin as threatened species and striped marlin as nearly threatened. Billfish are primarily caught as by-catch in non-U.S. commercial tuna and swordfish fisheries, but the by-catch is harvested and sold internationally, with the United States serving as the world's largest importer of billfish.
There are many sustainable alternatives for restaurants and retailers to offer in place of billfish; thus most restaurants have taken marlin and other billfish off the menu.
About the International Game Fish Association:
IGFA is a 73 year-old nonprofit conservation and record keeping organization with representatives and members in nearly 120 countries and territories. The association's headquarters are in the 60,000 sq ft IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Dania Beach, Florida. Learn more at www.igfa.org
About the National Coalition for Marine Conservation:
The National Coalition for Marine Conservation (NCMC), founded by conservation-minded anglers in 1973, is dedicated to keeping the ocean wild to preserve fishing opportunities for the future. The NCMC is based in Leesburg, Virginia. Learn more at www.wildoceans.org