The House Natural Resources Committee voted on Thursday, May 29th to move HR 4742, the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,” to the floor of the House for a vote.  The committee vote to approve incorporation of limited flexibility measures in the federal fisheries law was approved by a vote of 24-17 along purely partisan lines.

Bipartisan amendments, on the other hand, offered by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) respectively to restrict trading of fish allocation within the commercial sector while initiating improvements to recreational fishing data collected by NOAA Fisheries were supported by members of the committee.

“Today’s vote was the first step in ensuring our fishermen have a voice in establishing any new catch share programs, while addressing inflexibility in rebuilding plans and moving us closer to a data collection solution,” said Rep. Southerland on Thursday.  “I look forward to ensuring our fishermen’s interests are addressed as I work with members of both parties to pass Magnuson reauthorization in the House this year.”

Earlier in the week, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) sent a nationwide bulletin in support of HR 4742, urging House Natural Resource committee members to vote in favor of the bill along with both the Southerland and Pallone amendments.

HR 4742 was introduced by committee Chair Doc Hastings (R-WA) in an effort to improve and strengthen many of the provisions of the current Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  Key components of the legislation came about as a result of RFA’s frequent political action in Washington in support of additional management flexibility and access to healthy fish stocks.  Key language in the Hastings bill would address annual catch limits and accountability measures in the recreational sector, while providing management latitude in deadlines for rebuilding fish stocks.

“Congress should be focused on policies that promote an America that works – and when over a million Americans’ jobs are tied to fishing, whether commercial or recreational fishing, renewing and improving the Magnuson-Stevens Act should be a priority.” Hastings said at the hearing.  “I know there are still areas of disagreement, but even with areas of disagreement, I believe we have addressed a lot of concerns raised by outside groups and the Ranking Member.”

RFA executive director Jim Donofrio praised Chairman Hastings for working with ranking member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) to ensure that many of the democrat concerns were addressed in the final legislation.

“Today’s action gives me hope that we can see some type of federal fisheries reform in the very near future, that both Houses can come together to help balance commerce and conservation in support of ou nation’s saltwater anglers,” Donofrio said following the hearing.