On Monday, the U.S. House passed without opposition freshman U.S. Rep. Darren Soto’s, D-Fla., proposal limiting the sale of billfish caught by American vessels and giving the U.S. Commerce secretary more authority to manage Atlantic highly migratory species.
Soto introduced his proposal back in December and it was backed by the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee last week.
“Under current law, billfish caught by U.S. vessels that land in Hawaii or Pacific Insular Areas (American Samoa, Baker Island, Guam, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Island, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island) may be sold and exported to non-U.S. markets or transported to other U.S. markets,” Soto’s office noted about the legislation. “This bill requires billfish caught by U.S. vessels that land in Hawaii or Pacific Insular Areas to be retained for sale in those areas. This strikes a balance between preserving traditional cultural fishing in these areas and the overall intent to prevent large scale commercial fishing of these billfish.
“Moreover, the bill clarifies that there is no language in the Shark Conservation Act (SCA) of 2010 that alters existing authority of the Secretary of Commerce to manage Atlantic highly migratory species under the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” Soto’s office added. “It also cleans up language in the SCA by removing an expired offset. The main goal of this fix is to ensure protection against shark finning.”
Soto’s proposal had the support of several groups including Florida Conservation Voters, American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, OCEARCH, The Billfish Foundation and Wild Oceans.
“We are proud this legislation unanimously passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives, a major step toward becoming law,” Soto said on Monday after the House backed his measure on voice vote. “Billfish, such as Marlins and Sailfish, are a fundamental component of recreational fishing in parts of Florida. Team Soto members, as most Floridians, are big Shark Week fans and passionate about our wildlife. We have to do our part to protect and save these regal animals. We are encouraged with the bipartisan support out of the full House and the House Natural Resources Committee’s Chairman Bishop and Ranking Member Grijalva.”
With the House backing Soto’s proposal, it now heads to the president as U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., backed similar legislation which passed the Senate in October.