The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed H.R. 200, a bipartisan bill including the Modern Fish Act — legislation which addresses the challenges faced by recreational anglers in the current federal fisheries management system and seeks to balance management between the commercial and recreational sectors.

The legislation, which moves toward regional flexibility, tailored management strategies that favor local over federal control, better data collection and better responsiveness to the needs of recreational anglers, now moves to the U.S. Senate.

“These improvements to federal fisheries policy will allow resource managers to use better science, management strategies, tools and other updated capabilities that have developed since Magnuson-Stevens was enacted more than four decades ago,” Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves, who co-sponsored the legislation, said in a release.  “The bill also provides more flexibility compared to the current system, which means that management plans can be regionally tailored to specific species while improving the balance of management between recreational and commercial fisheries.

“Most importantly, these updates will better serve the public: ensuring the protection and growth of America’s fisheries, healthy ecosystems, expanded fishing opportunities and supporting the economic and social benefits associated with fishing so that these activities can continue for generations to come.” 

Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, noted in a release that this was the first time the priorities of the recreational fishing sector were included in the nation’s primary marine fisheries law.

“Marine recreational fishing is not a partisan issue, which was illustrated by the support H.R. 200 received from both parties today in the House,” Angers said. “We owe great thanks to Chairman Rob Bishop, Congressmen Don Young, Garret Graves, Gene Green and Marc Veasey for working together to properly recognize recreational fishing within the Magnuson-Stevens Act. These bipartisan leaders have made the difference for anglers from coast to coast.”

In 2014, the priorities of the recreational fishing and boating community were identified and presented to federal policy makers by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management. This group is also referred to as the Morris-Deal Commission, named for co-chairs Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boat Group.

Many of the recommendations of the Morris-Deal Commission are addressed by the Modern Fish Act and included in H.R. 200. 

This legislation addresses many of the challenges faced by recreational anglers, including allowing alternative management tools for recreational fishing, reexamining fisheries allocations and improving recreational data collection. The bill aims to benefit fishing access and conservation by incorporating modern management approaches, science and technology to guide decision-making.