A bipartisan group of U.S. representatives and senators has introduced the Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act of 2023, a bill that would create a grant program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for projects that take kids fishing in the ocean or Great Lakes, with priority given to projects that serve underserved communities. It would become the first such program within NOAA Fisheries, which manages federal marine fisheries.
Sponsors of the bill include Representatives Maria Salazar (R-Fla.) and Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.), and Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). This legislation is in line with the American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA’s) goal of introducing new anglers – particularly young people – to recreational fishing.
“Recreational fishing provides substantial physical and mental health benefits, but unfortunately many young people – particularly in underserved communities – face significant barriers in accessing the outdoors,” says Mike Leonard, the American Sportfishing Association’s Vice President of Government Affairs. “The grants provided through this bill will go a long way to remove those barriers and help children develop a love of fishing.
“We thank Representatives Salazar and Kamlager-Dove and Senators Wicker and Cantwell for their work on the Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act and are excited about the generations of new anglers it will help create,” Leonard said.
Rep. Salazar believes strongly in the benefits of creating angling opportunities for today’s youth. “It is critical to provide younger generations of Americans across the country, especially minority Americans, the opportunity to learn firsthand about our seas, oceans, lakes, and outdoors, as well as provide them with the tools to enjoy them,” she said.
Rep. Kamlager-Dove echoed those sentiments. “It is especially important that historically disadvantaged youth have opportunities to learn about aquatic life and marine sciences to harbor their curiosity in these fields,” she said.
Sen. Wicker indicated that the best way to develop an appreciation for the marine environment is to go fishing. “We should be encouraging young Americans to get involved in fishing,” he said. “Our legislation will help remove barriers to accessing the outdoors and ensure that more young anglers, especially those in underserved communities, have the opportunity to enjoy this beloved pastime.”
The bill will also help inspire younger generations, Sen. Cantwell believes. “This bill will help more kids get the tools, gear, and support they need to experience the outdoors and the benefits that come with it,” she said.
The bill provides $2 million in grants over each of the next five years for projects that include a recreational fishing experience for youth, offer education about marine science and conservation, and provide information on where or how to fish. ASA encourages anglers and others to visit its Keep America Fishing action alert, which makes it easy to contact their members of Congress to ask them to support the bill. A handout on the bill can be found here. In addition, a letter of support signed by 21 organizations can be found here.