Rep. Soto’s Shark, Billfish Protection Bill Advances Through Natural Resources Committee
The House Committee on Natural Resources advanced H.R. 4528, a bill introduced by Congressman Darren Soto to amend the Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 to limit the sale of billfish caught by U.S. fishing vessels and to amend the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 giving the Secretary of Commerce authority to manage Atlantic highly migratory species. H.R .4528 is also supported by a coalition of conservation and sportsman/anglers groups.
“We are proud this legislation unanimously passed in Committee. Billfish, such as Marlins and Sailfish, are a fundamental component of recreational fishing in parts of Florida. Team Soto members, as most Floridians, are big Shark Week fans and passionate about our wildlife. We have to do our part to protect and save these regal animals,” stated Rep. Soto. “We are encouraged with the bipartisan support in the Committee, and encourage House leadership to bring this critical legislation up for a vote on the House Floor.”
Said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy: “We thank Chairman Rob Bishop and Congressman Soto for bringing this important conservation measure in front of the House Natural Resources Committee. We hope to see final passage by the House very soon so that the federal government can finally implement the law as it was originally intended six years ago.”
Said Nehl Horton, president of the International Game Fish Association: “Today’s action by the Natural Resources Committee brings us one step closer to properly protecting billfish under the original intent of the law and standing tall as conservation leaders. It has been a long road since 2012, but I am hopeful the U.S. House will do the right thing and swiftly pass H.R. 4528.”
The coalition of groups supporting the Billfish Conservation Act includes American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, OCEARCH, The Billfish Foundation and Wild Oceans.
H.R.4528 is the House companion to S. 396, and identical bill introduced by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) which passed the U.S. Senate under unanimous consent on October 2, 2017.
Under current law, billfish caught by U.S. vessels that land in Hawaii or Pacific Insular Areas (American Samoa, Baker Island, Guam, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Island, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island) may be sold and exported to non-U.S. markets or transported to other U.S. markets. This bill requires billfish caught by U.S. vessels that land in Hawaii or Pacific Insular Areas to be retained for sale in those areas. Moreover, the bill clarifies that there is no language in the Shark Conservation Act (SCA) of 2010 that alters existing authority of the Secretary of Commerce to manage Atlantic highly migratory species under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. It also cleans up language in the SCA by removing an expired offset