New law bans interstate commerce of traditional fishery

Honolulu — President Trump has signed into law the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act (S. 1520), also known as the Modern Fish Act.

The amended Billfish Act had major consequences for the commercial fisheries in Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Island territories by banning interstate commerce of a sustainable, traditional fishery in the islands.

The bill, which had been stagnant since its introduction in 2017, was pushed through by the efforts of the same coalition of sports fishing organizations that earlier in the year supported the amended Billfish Conservation Act of 2012.

The Modern Fish Act, on the other hand, is more targeted toward the management of recreational fisheries in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico but may have implications for fisheries management in the U.S. Pacific Islands.

The new law urges the nation's eight Regional Fishery Management Councils to consider fishing mortality targets, extraction rates and other alternative means for evaluating recreational fishery catch limits rather than tonnage. The law also requires the National Academy of Sciences to review limited access privilege programs to ensure recreational fishing interests are treated fairly.

"Recreational fishing has been strongly represented in the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council since its inception forty years ago," notes the Council's executive director, Kitty M. Simonds.

The Council's first chair was a recreational fisherman, Wadsworth Yee, a former Hawaii state senator. Peter Fithian, founder of the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament in Kona, was another inaugural member. Today, recreational fisherman Dean Sensui, producer of Hawaii Goes Fishing, is the vice chair on the Council representing Hawaii, and Edwin Watamura, president of the Waialua Boat Club, is another of the Council's 13 voting members.