The National Sea Grant Law Center


  • Modern Fish Act Targets Recreational Fishers

  • January 11th, 2019 — by Terra Bowling — Category: Fisheries

  • On New Year’s Eve, President Trump signed the “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2018” (Modern Fish Act) into law. The Act amends the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) to address the management of federal recreational fisheries. The bill, introduced in 2017 by Senator Roger Wicker and Congressman Garret Graves, had more than a dozen cosponsors in both the House and Senate.

    The Act states that different management techniques are required for commercial and recreational fishing. “While both provide significant cultural and economic benefits to the Nation, recreational fishing and commercial fishing are different activities. Therefore, science-based conservation and management approaches should be adapted to the characteristics of each sector.”

    Recreational fishing and boating industry leaders largely heralded passage of the Act. “The recreational fishing industry is grateful to see this legislation enacted,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association. “We look forward to continuing to work with Congress, as well as NOAA Fisheries and the regional fishery management councils, to improve the management and conservation of our marine fisheries.”

    The Act has four directives:

    • [1] The Government Accountability Office must conduct a study of the allocation for mixed-use fisheries in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils.

    • [2] Regional Fishery Management Councils are authorized to use alternative fishery management measures for recreational fisheries, including the use of extraction rates, fishing mortality targets, harvest control rules, or traditional or cultural practices of native communities. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) must submit a report on the implementation of any of these measures to Congress within 180 days of enactment.

    • [3] The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) must submit a study on Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPP) within two years of enactment. The report must assess whether LAPP are meeting program and Act goals; the social, economic, and ecological effects of LAPP, considering each sector of a mixed-use fishery and related businesses, coastal communities, and the environment; and impacts of a LAPP program on stakeholders. The report must make recommendations to address these impacts. Further, the report must review best management practices and challenges for designing and implementing LAPP in each Regional Fishery Management Council.

    • [4] NOAA must work with Regional Fishery Management Councils to develop a report on the potential for incorporating alternate data collection and analysis methods, such as smartphone apps or electronic diaries.

    The full text of the law is available here.

  • Terra Bowling
    Senior Research Counsel

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