WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation unanimously approved bipartisan legislation aimed at preserving access to popular fishing grounds within Biscayne National Park, while at the same time conserving its natural resources.
The bill, sponsored by Florida senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, would ensure that the state of Florida and other stakeholders have a voice in the park’s fishery management decisions.
“More than four years ago, I urged the Park Service to be more inclusive of the recommendations from the state, recreational fishermen, and other stakeholders when revising fishery management regulations, such as the park’s general management plan,” said Nelson, the panel’s ranking member. “Unfortunately, the Park Service did not follow through and now we are in a situation where they’re proposing a drastic measure—a 10,000-acre no-fishing zone. This is a reasonable bill that will ensure the park consults with the state and uses the best available science moving forward.”
Specifically, the Access for Sportfishing Act would:
• Require that any restrictions imposed on recreational, charter, or commercial fishing in Biscayne National Park be: developed in formal coordination and consultation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC); based on the best and most recent scientific information regarding the fishery resource; and be the least restrictive measures necessary for effective conservation that provide the best fishing opportunities on a continuing basis.
• Amend the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 to prohibit shark feeding in federal waters and prohibit a vessel carrying a passenger for hire to any site to feed sharks or observe shark feeding. Chumming and other lawful fishing activities are exempted.
• Amend the Billfish Conservation Act of 2012, which prohibited the commercial sale of several species of marlin and other billfish, to clarify that an exemption provided for certain traditional fisheries and markets applies to billfish landed and retained locally.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.