Congress has departed Washington to focus on the November elections, but not before taking action to advance three important pro-fishing bills, including the Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 (S. 1451), the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 (S. 3525), and a resolution recognizing the 75th Anniversary of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) Programs (H. Res. 801).
The climate on Capitol Hill wasn’t exactly one of bipartisanship during the 112th Congress, but these bills proved exceptions. For instance the Sportsmen’s Act passed cloture (needed to schedule the actual floor debate) by a last-minute vote of 84-7. The bill would protect public lands, reauthorize conservation programs, block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating lead fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and more. Click here for a full description. A House version of the bill passed in April.
The Senate also passed the Billfish Conservation Act and, given that a House version has already passed, the bill now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature. It’s a major victory for the conservation of billfish such as marlin, sailfish and spearfish. Two decades ago, catch-and-release, a ban on the commercial sale and harvest of Atlantic-caught billfish, and other conservation efforts had a large positive impact on East Coast billfish populations. However, overfishing by non-U.S. commercial fleets have continued to deplete Pacific billfish. But not any more. The Billfish Conservation Act prohibits the sale of Pacific-caught billfish, except in the state of Hawaii in order to respect traditional native custom.
In other news, to recognize the 75th anniversary of WSFR programs, Representatives Don Young (AK) and John Dingell (MI) introduced H.Res. 801, “Recognizing America’s hunters, anglers, trappers, recreational boaters, recreational shooters, industry, state fish and wildlife agencies, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for their leading role in restoring healthy populations of fish, wildlife, and other natural resources.” WSFR is a key component of the “user pays-public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding, which provides the vast majority of funding for state fish and wildlife agencies. We’ll keep you posted on the resolution’s progress.