Wednesday marked another milestone for saltwater recreational fishermen when the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 — the Modern Fish Act — by what proponents called “an overwhelming majority.” A similar bill passed by a House committee in December.

This legislation calls for updates in oversight of federal fisheries, including adding improvements to data on catch rates and fish population estimates, and reallocations of quota for each sector.

The Senate bill (S. 1520) was introduced by Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi and Bill Nelson, D-Florida.

“The bipartisan leadership on display in the Senate Commerce Committee will not soon be forgotten by America’s 11 million saltwater recreational anglers,” said Jeff Angers, the Baton Rougean who heads the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “We look forward to working with congressional leaders in both chambers to get this legislation across the finish line.”

And from Whit Fosburgh, the top man at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, “The Modern Fish Act represents five years worth of input from our community, and will increase the level of trust between America’s 11 million saltwater anglers and federal fisheries managers. We’re extremely encouraged to see these updated management approaches tailored to meet the unique needs of recreational fishing, rather than forcing recreational seasons into a management scheme designed for commercial fisheries.”

Those opposed, namely commercial fishing associations, restaurant groups, including the Louisiana Restaurant Association, and the Environmental Defense Fund, decried the Senate committee’s action.

“We strongly support real solutions that improve the access and experience of recreational saltwater anglers. Unfortunately, S.1520 fails to address the root causes of angler frustration, while undermining regional fishery management and key commercial fisheries, and limiting the use of successful conservation tools like catch shares,” EDF senior director Matt Tinning said.

Joe Macaluso