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Rubio, Nelson Introduce Legislation to Improve Florida Fisheries

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) today introduced the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act, legislation that would enhance, protect and sustain Florida’s fishery resources and the communities that rely on them.

“Fishing remains an integral part of Florida’s history, economy and allure for residents and visitors alike,” said Rubio. “This bipartisan bill reflects the best ideas from Florida’s commercial, charter and recreational fishing communities, and would ensure federal fishing laws reflect the realities of our unique Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic regions while continuing to promote research and conservation efforts. As Congress works towards a reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens, I remain committed to ensuring Florida’s fisheries are well represented.”

“Florida is the fishing capital of the world,” said Nelson, “and this bill will help to ensure that this celebrated tradition is available for many more generations to come.”

The Florida Fisheries Improvement Act would:

  • Give the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Regional Fishery Management Councils greater flexibility in setting rebuilding timelines for fisheries.
  • Include provisions to increase the availability of funding for stock assessments, surveys and data collection.
  • Require the Secretary of Commerce to create a stock assessment plan to better prioritize stock assessments and submit a report to Congress on how to improve data collection from fishermen and other stakeholders.
  • Include provisions to increase transparency and public involvement in the scientific and statistical committee process, as well as the consideration of experimental fishing permits.
  • Authorize the Councils to consider alternative management measures such as extraction rates or fishing mortality targets in fishery management plans to better reflect the different priorities of each industry.
  • Ensure nominations to the Gulf and South Atlantic Councils reflect the mixed nature of fishery stakeholders by ensuring commercial, charter and recreational fishermen are afforded the opportunity to be nominated.
  • Require the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to review the allocation process every five to eight years and directs the National Academy of Sciences to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator to assist in identifying what Councils should take into account when dealing with the allocation process.
  • Resolve inconsistencies between the Capital Construction Fund and Fisheries Finance Program;
  • Require the U.S. secretary of commerce to make fishery disaster designations within 90 days of receiving information from the state.
  • Exempt fisheries with a mean life cycle of less than 1 year or with spawning areas outside the United States, such as spiny lobster, from unnecessary rebuilding timelines.

The bill is supported by numerous members of the fishing community.
Nick Wiley, Executive Director, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: “FWC is pleased to support the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act.  The legislation contains many provisions that will improve fishery management.  Specifically, the legislation exempts spiny lobster, which is a very important fish for Florida’s economy and enjoyed by many, from the one-size-fits-all annual catch limit requirement.”
Robert Jones, Executive Director, Southeastern Fisheries Association: “We must be sure to address a suite of issues in the next MSA reauthorization and the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act is a helpful first step. We look forward to working with Senator Rubio and his staff to provide for balanced management in mixed-use fisheries and to resist changes in in the law that might reduce commercial fishing access which is an important part of the food supply to Floridians and citizens all across this great country. We thank Senator Rubio for his interest and leadership on behalf of Florida’s commercial, charter, and sport fisheries.”
Kellie Ralston, Florida Fishery Policy Director, American Sportfishing Association: “While our state continues to provide strong management of our freshwater and inshore fisheries, federal marine fisheries management has created many challenges for Florida’s offshore anglers and the businesses that depend on these fisheries. We appreciate Senator Rubio’s and Nelson’s efforts through the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act in a way that benefits anglers and improves the management and conservation of federal fisheries.”
Eric Brazer, Jr., Deputy Director, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance: “The Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance appreciates Senator Rubio’s genuine commitment to work towards real solutions for all fishermen in the Gulf.  The Florida Fisheries Improvement Act proposes a number of welcome improvements that will ensure a well balanced and more transparent Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, improvements to the stock assessment process, and more timely critical relief in response to fishery disasters.  We look forward to working with the Senator to address some of the challenges we see that could trigger unintended consequences in our nation’s successful core system of annual catch limits and mandate perpetual and disruptive allocation debates in the region.”
Bill Kelly, Executive Director, Florida Keys Commercial Fisherman’s Association: “Senator Rubio’s introduction of the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act holds great promise including a much needed transboundary exemption for spiny lobster and increased stock assessments for economically important species to the benefit of all user groups.”
Mike and Jeanna Merrifield, Owners, Wild Ocean Seafood Market: “Good science is the foundation of a balanced MSA process.  Senator Rubio’s Florida Fisheries Improvement Act will promote scientific collaboration leading to more stock assessments, two things that are currently in short supply in the South Atlantic region.”
Ellen Peel, President, Billfish Foundation: “The Billfish Foundation applauds the work of Senator Rubio in drafting the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act, which addresses real fisheries problems, including bringing more transparency and accountability to the Exempted Fishing Permit process, like the upcoming decision by NMFS on a permit that would allow longline boats back into Florida’s east coast closed zone.”

SOURCE | US Senator Marco Rubio

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