WASHINGTON— Today, US Senator Bill Cassidy, Chairman of the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, chaired a hearing on land management legislation. Included in the pending legislation was Dr. Cassidy and US Senator Marco Rubio’s legislation, the Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act (S.2807).
A companion bill introduced in the US House of Representatives by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, H.R. 3310 has already passed the House with bipartisan support and is expected to be considered in the Energy conference report.
This legislation will 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.
“State and federal agencies need to work together when making decisions that affect our waters. When we restrict access, we impact everyone. We impact the moms and dads who want to take their kids fishing for the day. We impact the commercial fishermen who make a living on the Gulf, supplying our restaurants and grocery stores. We impact the associated businesses, like bait shops, charter boats, and motels along the Gulf, that are hurt by closures. Restricted access has real life consequences to Louisiana’s economy,” said Sen. Cassidy.
“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.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) report Fisheries Economics of the United States, 2014:
- Landings revenue in the Gulf of Mexico Region totaled $1 billion. This represents a 40 percent increase, adjusting for inflation, from 2005 levels and a 9 percent increase from 2013. Among Gulf states, Louisiana had the highest landing revenues – $451 million.
- An average of 3.2 million anglers fished in the Gulf of Mexico Region annually from 2005 to 2014 making more than 23 million fishing trips and more than $12 billion in total recreational fishing expenditures made in 2014 alone.
- Across all economic sectors in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Florida approximately 21 million full- and part-time jobs were filled by approximately 1.3 million establishments in 2013.
- Excluding imports, the Gulf seafood industry supported more than 100,000 jobs and generated $5.4 billion in total sales. Louisiana led all states in both number of workers employed and total sales.
- 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 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.