Trump signs recreational fishery bill into law

The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act is now officially a law.

The White House announced on Monday, 31 December, that President Trump signed U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker’s bill, which the Mississippi Republican has said would improve conservation efforts and also help communities that rely on recreational fishing for their economies.

In a statement, Trump said the act strengthens regional fishery management councils. Namely, it requires the Government Accountability Office to review how councils presiding over the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic fishery regions allocate quotas in areas where both anglers and commercial fishermen have access. 

The new law also urges councils to consider using alternative means for evaluating recreational fishery catch limits. Rather than using tonnage, councils could now use fishing mortality targets or extraction rates. The law also requires the National Academy of Sciences to review limited access privilege programs to make sure they treat recreational fishing interests fairly.

“The power of these councils has steadily increased over time, raising constitutional concerns related to the manner of the appointment and removal of their members and of members of certain scientific and statistical committees that assist them,” Trump said. “Keeping with past practice of the executive branch, my Administration will treat the plans promulgated by the Council as advisory only; the adoption of the plans will be subject to the discretion of the Secretary of Commerce as part of the regulatory process described in section 304 of the Magnuson‑Stevens Act.”

Trump’s signing comes two weeks after a revised version of Wicker’s bill passed the Senate without opposition. Two days later, it advanced in the House by a 350-11 margin. 

Matt Tinning, associate vice president for the Environment Defense Fund’s Oceans Program, said changes in the bill removed threats to conservation efforts. 

“We can all be proud to have reached agreement on a bill that responds to the demands of recreational fishing advocates without jeopardizing either sustainability or Americans’ access to local seafood,” Tinning said after the House vote. 


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