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Posted by . on March 10, 2004 at 22:22:25:

STATE RECREATIONAL "FREEDOM TO FISH" BILLS CALLED THREAT TO FISHERY MANAGEMENT: Environmentalists, scientists, commercial fishermen, and state and national regulatory agencies are mobilizing in opposition to proposed state legislation known collectively as "freedom to fish" bills, according to the State Environmental Resource Center (SERC). According to a report on the SERC website, in 2003, "freedom to fish" bills were introduced in 11 state legislatures. SERC describes these bills as "measures promoted by a concerted, nationwide campaign of the Recreational Fishing Alliance and other sportfishing organizations." According to SERC, the language in these bills prohibits states from closing waters to sportfishing unless "there is a clear indication that recreational fishing is the cause of a specific conservation problem."

In an April 2003 letter to New Jersey's Governor, ten academic scientists expressed concern that passage of such a bill would effectively end the ability of the state to protect marine resources. In their letter regarding the New Jersey legislation, the scientists said that bill "sets an unachievable burden of proof" by requiring that recreational fishing be determined to be the primary cause of an ecological problem. "Given the lack of existing data on recreational fishing, and the expansive amount of data that this bill requires, it may be statistically impossible to determine the effects specific to rod and reel fishing on any particular marine environment," they concluded. Moreover, "for many species, recreational fishing is the primary source of fishing mortality, and catch-and-release practices are often not effective." Of the eleven states where "freedom to fish" bills were introduced in 2003, only in one - Rhode Island - has such a bill been signed into law. However, says SERC, supporters of the legislation "are mobilizing in New Hampshire, Maryland, and other coastal states to get the Act passed during upcoming legislative sessions." For further information see: http://www.serconline.org/freedomFish.html.

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