A bill has been filed to increase protection for beleaguered billfish stocks (marlin, sailfish and spearfish) in the Pacific ocean. Decades of commercial overfishing, primarily by foreign countries, has caused the stocks of these great animals to become greatly depleted in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It is currently illegal to harvest or import billfish caught in the Atlantic into the U.S., but Pacific-caught billfish can still be landed commercially, and are, in substantial numbers.
The Billfish Conservation Act of 2011 (S. 1451 and H.R. 2706), introduced into Congress on July 29, would close U.S. commercial markets to Pacific billfish, preventing their harvest and importation from foreign countries. The bad news is that commercial fishermen from Hawaii and other U.S. Pacific islands will still be allowed to sell billfish legally. But this bill will have a negligible impact on the U.S. commercial fishing industry in the U.S. — billfish represent only 0.1 percent of all seafood sales and there are many sustainable alternatives.
The bill has wide bipartisan support, and increased abundance of billfish in the Pacific will translate into billions more dollars spent by recreational fishermen as these anglers seek the fish out as catch-and-release sport, a truly sustainable and economically powerful alternative to commercial slaughter. This important legislation will help restore billfish populations while also improving recreational fishing opportunities and concurrently creating jobs and other economic benefits.
Virtually every major conservation group has pledged support for this vital bill, including the IGFA, KeepAmericaFishing, CCA and The Billfish Foundation. You can help too: Call or write your legislative representatives and urge them to support The Billfish Conservation Act of 2011. It’s long overdue and has nothing but upside.
Go here for more information about the bill and to find out how you can get involved.