There’s a lot of cynicism these days about politics and politicians, much of it justified, and I won’t try to tackle that thorny issue in this blog. Instead, I want to tell you about a positive experience I had recently in Washington, D.C.
I got invited to attend the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation fundraising dinner in Washington a few weeks back, and was pleased to meet a group of senators and congressmen who share a love of the outdoors and are working had to preserve our American heritage of hunting, fishing, trapping and shooting.
These men and women are members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, and come from both sides of the aisle. It’s refreshing to see Republicans and Democrats working in unison toward a common goal: The Caucus has almost 300 members representing almost all 50 states. With bipartisan leadership in both the House and the Senate, the Caucus acts as our first line of defense in Washington, promoting and protecting the rights of hunters, trappers, shooters and anglers.
That being said, I’m sure many of you have never heard of the CSF or the Caucus. The CSF was formed in 1989, through the efforts of former Congressman Lindsey Thomas (D-GA). Thomas was a five-term Congressman and now serves as chairman of the CSF board of directors.
The CSF works tirelessly to fend off the many and varied attacks on hunting and fishing, and they also promote our sports by constantly working to attract new participants. Obviously, they monitor legislation to make sure nothing harmful slips through the exhaustive process of passing bills, but they also introduce legislation of their own to positively affect our sports.
In the saltwater fishing world, Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA) recently sponsored H.R.2304, the House version of a bill that will be of vital importance to anglers. It’s called the Fishery Science Improvement Act of 2011, and would enable the National Marine Fisheries Service to manage marine fisheries based on sound science, not statutory deadlines where there often is inadequate data and incomplete analysis.
As amended in 2006, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires Regional Fishery Management Councils to put in place annual catch limits and accountability measures for every fishery by December 31 of this year. NOAA presently has about 528 stocks or complexes of fish under management, but lack updated stock assessment data on more than half of them.
The FSIA removes the requirement to implement ACLs and AMs on stocks for which there is inadequate data and no evidence of overfishing. The legislation directs NOAA Fisheries to set ACLs and AMs only on those stocks of fish for which they have up-to-date scientific information to inform that decision. NOAA Fisheries is preparing to set ACLs and AMs for about 550 stocks of fish to meet the deadline of December 31, 2011, but the FSIA would extend the 2011 deadline to 2014 for stocks of fish that are not overfished and allows the agency to implement the Act.
This is just one crucial piece of legislation supported by CSF and the Caucus, but it’s of vital importance to saltwater fishermen in the U.S. To learn more about the CSF and the many things they do each day to support hunters and fishermen like you and me, log onto sportsmenslink.org. This is one aspect of government that works as it should.
PHOTO: L-R: Matt Shilling, president of Ocearch, Brent Robinson, senior legislative assistant to Congressman Rob Wittman, Jim Shepherd, president of The Fishing Wire, John Doerr, president and CEO of Pure Fishing, John Brownlee, Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, Congressman Rob Wittman, (R-Va.), Ted Venker, conservation director of the Coastal Conservation Association, and Doug Olander editor in chief of Sport Fishing magazine.