Wicker Authors Bills to Boost Recreational Fishing, Marine Management

Legislation Would Encourage Data Collection and Collaboration in the Gulf

July 10, 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss, has introduced two legislative proposals to improve access to ocean fisheries for recreational fishermen and to encourage modernization of ocean data collection procedures. Wicker is a senior member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which oversees policies related to marine fisheries and the nation’s oceans.

“For too long, Mississippi’s fishermen have been dealing with government policies based on bad data,” Wicker said. “This legislation would be an important first step to modernize the federal fishing policies on the Gulf Coast and preserve access to Mississippi’s bountiful fishing resources for years to come.”

The “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act” would encourage regional fishery management councils to update their policies for recreational anglers that access mixed-use fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Current guidelines for commercial fishing operations prove difficult to implement for recreational anglers and severely restrict fishing seasons for these individuals. The legislation would also encourage the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop partnerships that improve its recreational fishing data collection and work to incorporate non-federal data, which is often better than traditional data streams.

This bill is cosponsored by Senators Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., John Kennedy, R-La., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

The “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act” would also improve recreational fishery management by:

  • Directing the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico fishery management councils to review allocation of mixed-use fisheries every 5 years;
  • Requiring the National Academy of Sciences to review Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPP) to ensure they are fair and effective;
  • Preventing annual catch limits for non-commercial anglers from decreasing unreasonably in data-poor fisheries;
  • Expanding oversight of exempted fishing permits to ensure they meet conservation goals; and
  • Codifying flexible rebuilding timelines for long-lived species.

Wicker has repeatedly supported better ocean data collection policies in the Gulf of Mexico. Last month, Wicker reintroduced legislation with U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., to reauthorize the Integrated Coastal Ocean Observing System Act. The legislation, which was approved by the Senate during the last Congress, would renew federal support for the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). This system collects data to support national defense, search-and-rescue operations, marine commerce, navigation safety, weather, energy siting and production, economic development, and coastal ecosystem management. The IOOS network comprises 17 federal agencies and 11 regional associations that engage the public and private sectors to design and operate information-gathering systems.