WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio introduced the Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act (S.2807) to ensure that federal and state agencies are equal partners in the development of any new fishing access restrictions in areas where state marine waters and national park waters overlap. The legislation protects and maintains existing environmental protections and makes certain that states have a say in the fishery management decisions in their own waters. The bill does not apply to fishery management decisions in federal waters.
“It’s crazy that state and federal agencies don’t already work together when making decisions that affect our waters,” said Sen. Cassidy. “Louisianans know our waters better than the federal government does—our knowledge is an asset in making decisions that impact our fishermen, our boaters, our tourism industry and our economy.”
“Florida’s waters play a key role in the state’s economy. From tourism to commercial fishing to recreational interests, these industries sustain our communities and should be managed by those who know them best. State agencies have specialized knowledge of these waters and should have a seat at the table when major management plans or closures are considered,” said Sen. Rubio. “We need this legislation in order to ensure that access to Biscayne National Park is not decided solely by Washington, but instead by both federal and state agencies that are able to carefully consider all invested interests and parties.”
The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Information (GULFINO) reports that in 2012 (the last year for which numbers are available):
- Louisiana commercial fisheries landings has a dockside value of approximately $328 million
- The Louisiana seafood industry generated approximately $1.48 billion in economic contributions and supported 30,493 jobs
- Expenditures related to commercial fisheries totaled $1.79 billion
- Expenditures generated approximately $1.96 billion in economic contributions and supported 16,972 jobs.
The Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act (H.R. 3310) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and passed the House with bipartisan support.
The bill has been endorsed by a number of organizations including the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies which represents the wildlife agencies of all 50 U.S. states and 6 U.S. territories. The following organizations offered statements in support of the Senate legislation:
“The recent closure of waters to fishing in Biscayne Bay National Park, in spite of the objections by fisheries experts at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, is exactly why this legislation is needed. We commend Senator Cassidy and Senator Rubio for sponsoring this bill, which is a common sense approach to ensuring access for America’s anglers in state and territorial waters under the National Park Service.” – Jeff Crane, President of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
“Louisiana is nationally recognized by recreational fishermen and commercial seafood harvesters as a premier fishing destination. Allowing the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) to be included in discussions regarding fishing access are critical to our ability to maximize access and opportunities to our aquatic resources.” – Charlie Melancon, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
“NMMA applauds the introduction of the ‘Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act’ in the Senate and Senators Cassidy and Rubio’s efforts to ensure robust access for boaters and anglers in U.S. National Parks. This legislation would require cooperative decision making on fisheries policies in state waters, something that was lacking during the development of the Biscayne National Park general management plan. The boating industry continues to advocate for a balanced approach to access and conservation, cooperation amongst stakeholder groups and open dialogue during National Park management planning. We appreciate both Senator’s efforts to support these same goals.” – Thom Dammrich, President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association
“It’s only logical that any decision affecting fishing access in state waters should have the approval of that state’s fish and wildlife agency. We applaud Sens. Cassidy and Rubio for introducing this common-sense legislation, and urge other members of the Senate to co-sponsor and help ensure this bill’s passage.” – Jeff Angers, President of the Center for Coastal Conservation
“Given the significant economic, social and conservation benefits that recreational fishing provides to the nation, any decision to close or restrict public access should be based on sound science and strong management principles. While closed areas have a role in fisheries management, they should only come after legitimate consideration of all possible options and agreement among management agencies. This bill, which is strongly supported by the recreational fishing industry, will ensure that the voice of state fisheries agencies is not lost in these decisions.” – Mike Nussman, President and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association
Read the legislation here.