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Graves’ Modern Fish Act Heads to U.S. Senate

Improvements to federal fisheries policy that Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) has been pushing for in Congress advanced to the U.S. Senate today as the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 200 - Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.

H.R. 200 includes several Graves provisions that benefit saltwater fishermen and women, including his Modern Fish Act - legislation addressing the challenges faced by recreational anglers in the current federal fisheries management system and bringing a balance of management between the recreational and commercial fishing sectors.

"Louisiana is home to one of the most productive ecosystems on the continent, and more commercial and recreational seafood is consistently landed off our coast each year than almost anywhere else in the nation. In Louisiana as in places across the country, our fisheries are more than major economic drivers – they are a way of life for millions of normal, everyday people who like to fish, to be outside and enjoy the bounty of America's waters," Graves said.

Passage of H.R. 200 is major movement toward regional flexibility, tailored management strategies that favor local over federal control, better data collection and enhanced responsiveness to the needs of recreational anglers and mixed use fisheries.

Graves continued: "These improvements to federal fisheries policy will allow resource managers to use better science, management strategies, tools and other updated capabilities that have developed since Magnuson-Stevens was enacted more than four decades ago. The bill also provides more flexibility compared to the current system, which means that management plans can be regionally tailored to specific species while improving the balance of management between recreational and commercial fisheries.

Most importantly, these updates will better serve the public: ensuring the protection and growth of America's fisheries, healthy ecosystems, expanded fishing opportunities and supporting the economic and social benefits associated with fishing so that these activities can continue for generations to come."

The bill also includes a Graves-authored fix for a bewildering policy obstacle to Louisiana's coastal crisis: some areas where there used to be land are now considered "essential fish habitats" and are protected from restoration activity. Graves' fix removes this obstacle, helping Louisiana advance coastal restoration efforts.

Graves explained: "When we come in and restore wetlands in areas where there has been incredible land loss, federal regulators are telling us we have to pay for the impact to fisheries – fisheries that used to be land. But they're not making the fish pay for the impacts to humans or to our wetlands."

Another Graves provision in H.R. 200 asks the Comptroller General to examine conflicts in the management of Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. Taking a fresh look at these challenges will help inform future decisions toward a tailored approach to ensure that the fish are available to both commercial and recreational users.

As the bill awaits action in the Senate, Graves is eager to continue working toward seeing these landmark reforms signed into law.