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Thursday, September 14, 2017
Recreational Fishing Leaders Testify in U.S. Senate
The U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a robust hearing entitled "Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: Oversight of Fisheries Management Successes and Challenges." The Subcommittee heard from two panels of witnesses representing recreational, commercial and subsistence fishermen.

This was the third hearing of a series focusing on America's federal fisheries laws. Phil Faulkner, president of NauticStar Boats; Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance; and Chris Horton, fisheries program director for the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, represented recreational fishermen. Written testimony and a video of the hearing can be found here.

The message recreational fishing advocates are bringing to Washington is simple: recreational anglers fuel marine conservation efforts, help drive the U.S. economy, and deserve fair and equitable access to America's public marine resources.

Marine recreational fishing is one of America's oldest and most beloved pastimes. America's 11 million marine recreational anglers annually contribute $63 billion to the U.S. economy and generate 440,000 American jobs. It goes without saying that marine recreational fishing matters to the U.S. economy.

There was plenty of discussion on the bipartisan Modern Fish Act, introduced in both Chambers of Congress earlier this year. (S. 1520 and H.R. 2023) The Modern Fish Act would finally recognize the differences between commercial and recreational fishing by allowing alternative management tools for recreational fishing that are proven in other jurisdictions; reexamining fisheries allocations; smartly rebuilding fish stocks, and improving recreational data collection.

CSP partner and owner of NauticStar Boats, Phil Faulkner, testified on how the uncertainty within the federal fisheries management system for managing recreational fishing affects his business. "Uncertainty about access, uncertainty about consistent fishing seasons, uncertainty about fisheries management will often discourage a potential angler from justifying an investment in purchasing a boat. Therefore, the market never reaches its potential," said Faulkner.

"Our business affects more than me and my 300 employees," Faulkner explained in his written testimony. "We do business with suppliers from many parts of the country who contribute to every boat we make. They include companies like Composites One, based in Arlington Heights, Ill., that provides us with fiberglass and catalysts to make hulls of boats. AOC Resins, in Collierville, Tenn., provides us with resins that we mix with fiberglass. Ashland Chemicals which supplies us with gelcoat is based in Fort Smith, Ark. SeaStar Solutions supplies us with steering systems and control cables from their locations in Litchfield, Ill., and Limerick, Penn. As I mentioned, the saltwater recreational fishing economy reaches far beyond the U.S. coastline."

Marine recreational fishing is critical to our economy, our culture and the conservation of healthy marine resources for future generations. The Modern Fish Act takes these factors into account and would apply updates and tweaks to the Magnuson-Stevens Act to ensure a vibrant recreational fishing industry and healthy marine fisheries going forward.

My column cannot possibly cover all the important points made at yesterday's hearing. I truly hope you will review the testimony.

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