Alexandria, VA - In response to the growing number of proposals to limit recreational fishing along America's oceans and coasts, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) took the lead in developing legislation with Congressional leaders to protect America's anglers. On October 25th, Senators John Breaux (LA) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) introduced this legislation as the Freedom to Fish Act (S. 3234).
"Free and easy access to places to fish is the single most important element of recreational fishing," explained ASA President Mike Hayden. "That principle is canonized in the Freedom to Fish Act."
Open access for recreational anglers is a concept embraced on virtually all federal lands and waters including wildlife refuges, national parks, wilderness areas, and the exclusive economic zone. This extensive record clearly demonstrates that access can be maintained for recreational anglers under appropriate science-based regulatory schemes that include seasons, size limits, bag limits and other regulations. Such management practices have proven themselves to be highly effective in maintaining healthy fisheries.
However, some environmentalists advocate a policy whereby 20% of U.S. coastal waters should be delineated as marine protected areas in an effort to restore depressed fish stocks and degraded habitat. "While I support the goal of healthy marine fisheries," stated Senator Breaux, "I believe that restricting public access to those waters is not the appropriate vehicle for accomplishing that goal in most cases." In response, the Freedom to Fish Act would establish guidelines and safeguards to preserve the public's right to use and enjoy these resources.
According to the legislation, only in those cases where recreational fishing has demonstrable adverse effects could a specific, well-defined area be closed. Further, once established targets were achieved, that area would reopen immediately to recreational anglers. "Restricting public admission to our coastal waters should not be our first course of action, but rather our last," concluded Senator Breaux.
¿ ¿ ¿ ¿-- American Sportfishing Association