Washington, DC – Under the deceivingly benign banner of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), a network of federal
"no-fishing zones" in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans threatens to arbitrarily deny recreational fishermen
access to U.S. marine resources. In response, Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) is urging Congress to pass the
Freedom to Fish Act (H.R. 2890) in the 108th Congress to ensure that excluding recreational anglers from a public resource
is a last resort, not a first option, in fisheries management.
With current and proposed bans on recreational fishing encompassing as much as 20 percent of U.S. waters, CCA and
the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) worked with congressional leaders to draft the Freedom to Fish Act. The
Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) has joined CCA and ASA to form a strong sport fishing coalition working for passage
of the bill.
"Modern fishery management techniques work, and the Freedom to Fish Act will ensure that MPAs are another tool
available to fishery managers, not the only tool," said David Cummins, CCA president. "The majority of anglers are firmly
committed to the concept of conservation, yet these no-fishing zones threaten to remove them from the very environment
that they have protected for so long. Arbitrary exclusion zones are simply not an acceptable approach."
The Act includes a specific set of criteria for the proper utilization of MPAs, while acknowledging recreational
anglers’ freedom to access our nation’s renewable marine fisheries. Congressman Jim Saxton (NJ-3rd) recently introduced
the Freedom to Fish Act in the House of Representatives.
"Up and down the East and West Coast, the story is the same," said Congressman Saxton, vice chairman of the House
Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee. "Sensible fishing policies must be based on sound science. This
bill establishes reasonable, scientifically-based standards that must be met before our marine waters can be closed off to
The use of no-fishing zones ignores the success achieved by modern fishery management techniques and instead
presents a one-size-fits-all management measure that bans all fishing in a specific area, forever. The Freedom to Fish Act
provides a logical set of criteria to determine if and when MPAs provide the only viable solution to a fishery management
problem, or if other, less extreme measures will suffice.
"Recreational fishermen have long promoted management measures that include not only size restrictions and bag
limits, but also special management zones, gear-restricted areas, time and area closures, and closures with regard to specific
species," said Fred Miller, chairman of CCA's National Government Relations Committee. "These measures have been
successfully employed to restore popular sportfish decimated by commercial overfishing, such as red drum, striped bass
and Spanish mackerel, among others. Yet some groups seem to view recreational anglers as merely another problem to be
‘solved.’ We see ourselves as part of the solution."
"Recreational fishermen have long fought for conservation of marine resources and the protection of habitat and we will
continue to do so," said Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). "This legislation is
important to protect public access to our waters by simply setting standards that should be met before any more blanket
closures are created."
CCA opposes regulations that prohibit recreational fishing access unless it can be scientifically determined that
recreational fishermen are the cause of a specific conservation problem and traditional conservation measures are inadequate to solve the problem. •