(CN) – Recreational marine fishing regulations will be overhauled after Congress passed a set of rules last month known as the Modern Fish Act, bringing a wave of changes in how recreational fishing data is collected and used that could lead to longer seasons.
“For the first time, we have regulations that recognize the fundamental difference between recreational and commercial fishing,” Chris Horton, a fisheries program director for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, said in an interview Monday.
This distinction is an important development for those in the recreational fishing industry, which has reeled in over $100 billion for the U.S. economy and created more than 472,000 jobs in 2016, according to an Associated Press report.
Before the law passed in December, recreational anglers were confined to a regulatory model that was designed around commercial operations, Horton said.
For example, he said, harvesting seasons for commercial fishing operations and recreational fishermen alike are determined by the numbers of pounds of fish caught. A season ends before the pound quota is exceeded, according to Horton.
For commercial operations, this data can be made quickly available to agencies that monitor marine wildlife. It is far more difficult to collect timely and accurate data about recreational anglers, simply because there are more of them.
This can lead to recreational fishing seasons being cut short as federal agencies provide conservative estimates rather than more accurate ones, Horton said.
He said the rise in technology has increased the number of sport anglers on the water.
“The Modern Fish Act gives the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other organizations the potential opportunity to come up with more informed and efficient ways to gather data on recreational fishing other than the commercial pound limit,” Horton said.
This new set of rules is a small step in the right direction, but is nowhere near the end of the line, according to Mark Odom, head of the Florida chapter of Recreational Fishing Alliance.
“Not everyone in the recreational sector is excited about this,” Odom told Courthouse News.
The rules may not yield the bountiful benefits recreational anglers expect to see, he said, including longer harvest seasons.