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Bill Could Loosen Fisheries Regulation

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Since 1976, Democrats and Republicans have worked together to regulate commercial and recreational fishing in this country, but that could change this week when Congress votes on House Resolution 200. 

It seems even fish are now a partisan affair.

Ten years ago, Virginia and other mid-Atlantic states had depleted many of the fish that were once plentiful here, so Congress voted to monitor and limit the catch for about 600 species.  At the Environmental

Defense Fund, Matt Tinning says that worked really well. “The managers there have worked extremely effectively with the fishermen and have made enormous progress.”

But In some places, like Florida, recreational fishermen are furious.  Their season is too short, they say, and while species like red snapper have rebounded, catch limits remain low.

Jason DeLaCruz, who owns a commercial fishing company near Tampa, says the regulations have been good, but recreational anglers in this country – more than 9 million strong – are a powerful interest group, with more political clout than professional fishermen. “We’re such a small blip in the world, we don’t have enough funding to be able to affect change," DeLaCruz says.  "You hate to say it, but that’s the way the world is.”

Which could be why House Resolution 200, which makes it possible to roll back some catch limits and reduce the speed of protection for flagging species, could be approved.  “One of the real strengths of fishery management in the United States is it’s been bi-partisan, and unfortunately this time around we do have a partisan bill," environmentalist Matt Tinning says.  "It moved through committee on a strictly partisan vote. No Republicans against and no Democrats in favor. That’s not a recipe for good policy-making in our book.”

The bill could also give more control of fishing regulation to the states. 

This story comes to us from the National Press Foundation’s Sustainable Fishing Conference underwritten by the Walton Family Foundation.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief