Conservationists and anglers are praising a bill filed last week by U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) that seeks to clear the way for full implementation of a landmark law to raise protections for billfish. The Billfish Conservation Act (BCA) was lauded when it was signed into law in 2012, but a slight ambiguity in the wording of the original legislation prevented it from being implemented as intended by the federal government.
?The coalition of groups supporting the Billfish Conservation Act includes NMMA, American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, OCEARCH and Wild Oceans. ?
The Billfish Conservation Act banned the importation of all billfish caught by foreign fleets into the continental United States and, perhaps most importantly, set an example for other countries to pursue similar conservation efforts once thought impossible. However, questions arose over whether the same prohibitions on foreign caught billfish imposed by the bill also applied to billfish caught commercially in Hawaii. If commercially caught billfish could be transported from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland, it would circumvent the intent of the conservation measure. The legislation introduced today simply clarifies that billfish landed in Hawaii must be retained there.
Prior to the passage of the Billfish Conservation Act, the U.S. was the number one importer of billfish in the world. U.S. calls for greater billfish conservation in international fishery management circles in the past were often met with skepticism, and disregarded. Implemented as originally intended, the law should make it easier for the U.S. to establish a greater leadership role for the international protection of billfish.