Out on the water fishing for lingcod to bring home for dinner, you don’t usually think about how a federal law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, is the reason this and other West Coast fish populations that were once overfished are now rebuilt.
But it’s because of successes like lingcod that our country is considered a leader in fisheries management around the world. With 44 overfished stocks rebuilt since 2000 and overfishing near all-time lows, we have a lot to be grateful for.
And, for anglers like me, the way we’ve been heading is great news. The more fish in the water, the more chances I have to go after them. There also is the subsequent $27 billion economic benefit salt water sport fisheries bring to rural coastal towns.
I think of fish the same way I think about my savings account — if I take too many now, there’s nothing left to grow. I want to leave something so that my grandkids will be able to enjoy the same fishing experiences I do now.
But there are some in Congress who want to change the very parts of the MSA that make sure we have fish in the water for future generations.
HR 200 — a bill that will be voted on this week — weakens the reliance on science and would stretch out timelines for rebuilding depleted populations.
Now is not the time to relax the rules. Even though we see some of the positive effects from the act, there are still a number of fish populations that need attention. For example, there are fish in our region that are just 10 years into a 50-year –— or longer — rebuilding plan.
They are on the path to recovery, but need sustained and strong management to be rebuilt into a healthy population for us all to enjoy.
Here in the Northwest, we are fortunate to have access to a number of healthy and abundant fisheries. As Executive Director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, I’m proud to represent anglers who are dedicated to being good stewards of our natural resources.
We believe in being responsible sportsmen, protecting and enhancing our fish populations now and into the future. And we want Congress to take the same long-view approach when it comes to managing our fisheries.
I’ve been fishing these waters for decades and I’ve seen the boom and bust of poorly managed fish populations. HR 200 will bring us back to those days — and that’s why I am joining fishermen, chefs, scientists and conservation groups from around the country to oppose this bad bill.
The Magnuson–Stevens Act was crafted over 40 years ago. Let’s honor the bipartisan improvements made to this landmark fisheries law by working together to keep fish populations robust and coastal economies viable.
I urge our entire Washington delegation to vote no on HR 200, especially Representatives Dan Newhouse, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Our ocean fish depend on it.
Bob Rees is a professional fishing guide and Executive Director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders.