U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) secured the U.S. Senate approval of his bipartisan Billfish Conservation Act over the weekend. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) was the lead cosponsor in the Senate, and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) sponsored of the same bill that also secured U.S. House approval recently.
"My Billfish Conservation Act has long had strong bi-partisan support in the Senate, and our efforts -- three years in the making -- have finally come to fruition for the sportfishing and conservation communities," Sen. Vitter said. "Louisiana is known as the sportsman's paradise and we understand that it's important to protect this majestic species, a real prize of recreational fishing."
Several members of the sport-fishing and conservation communities praised the passage of the Billfish Conservation Act.
Rob Kramer, President of the International Game Fish Association, said: "Getting the Billfish legislation passed through the Senate and enacted into law is the best news for recreational anglers in years. This will turn the tide on declining stocks of sailfish, marlin and spearfish caused by commercial over-fishing in other countries."
Jeff Angers, President of the Center for Coastal Conservation, said: "Passing the Billfish Conservation Act is important news for conservation. It's great news for recreational anglers, and it's terrific news for Americans working in tourism, sportfishing and marine businesses. Special kudos to Senator David Vitter (R-La.), his Florida colleagues Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) and others for their leadership corralling a unanimous vote in this Congress."
Mike Nussman, President of America's Sportfishing Association, said: "The Billfish Conservation Act will mean more jobs in the sportfishing industry across the U.S. At a time when any bill is tough to pass in Congress, this bipartisan billfish legislation had the unanimous support of both the Senate and the House of Representatives."
There is already a ban on commercial harvest and sale of Atlantic?caught billfish, but not on Pacific-caught billfish. The Vitter-Miller legislation would put a ban on the sale of Pacific-caught billfish.
Billfish, which include sailfish, spearfish and marlin, are experiencing significant depletion in their population due to commercial overfishing. Billfish are important to the ecosystems because they are seen as predators in the ocean or near the top of the ocean food chain.
In addition to improving the conservation concerns, restoring billfish populations will improve recreational fishing opportunities both in the U.S. and abroad, which will create jobs and sales for U.S. boat and gear manufacturers, as well as U.S. marina and sports?fishing industries.
Earlier this year, Vitter was named "Conservationist of the Year" by the Center for Coastal Conservation in part for his leadership on the Billfish Conservation Act.