Freedom to Fish Act Introduced in U.S. Senate

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Senator John Breaux (D-Louisiana) have introduced a Senate version of the Freedom to Fish Act (S.2244) to address the push to create no-fishing marine protected areas (MPAs) in U.S. waters. Recreational fishing groups support the measure because it protects the rights of anglers while requiring sound science to support any area closures. "In most instances, fishery resources can be maintained through a variety of management measures, including quotas, gear restrictions, minimum-size requirements, bag limits and seasonal closures, without restricting public access to places to fish," said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

Frederic L. Miller, chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association's Government Relations Committee, said, "This legislation does not prohibit the use of marine protected areas, but rather lays the ground rules for their use without arbitrarily and unnecessarily excluding the public."

"Restricting salt water anglers' access should only be considered if there's reason to think they're having an impact and other conservation methods like catch-and-release and size limits won't go far enough," said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. For more information, visit www.freedomtofish.org.