The Modern Fish Act: A Bright Future for U.S. Sportfishing

The Johnny Morris Conservation Foundation and the Bass Pro Shops family of outdoor companies, alongside the customers we serve, have been a leading voice in marine conservation for decades. Standing together with customers and some of the world’s best conservation organizations, we are showing the importance of recreational fishing.

Our collective voice has been central to creating a landmark national policy that will benefit the future of fishing and marine conservation. Anglers, the backbone of conservation, empowered the passage of the Modern Fish Act.

Together we have been involved in the landmark legislation — from inception to implementation. What follows is a breakdown. Shopping with World Wide Sportsman or Bass Pro Shops actively empowers this type of world-changing conservation and advocacy work.

The Modern Fish Act

The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2018 will benefit recreational fishing for decades. It empowers policy makers with management tools that better account for recreational fishing and how it relates to fish populations. What’s more, the bill officially recognizes the differences between recreational and commercial fishing for the first time.

The bluewater sportfishing community in the United States will benefit from the Modern Fish Act directly.

From Maine to southern California, or Florida to Alaska, the Modern Fish Act of 2018 directly benefits the entire U.S. saltwater recreational fishing community.

Passage of the Act was greeted with overwhelming support. For context on just how important this bill is, consider the words of leading conservation organizations:

“Millions of American families take part in saltwater recreational fishing and boating activities and support multi-billion-dollar industries that generate hundreds of thousands of jobs in our country,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “Today, we are thankful for this important milestone for federal fisheries management and marine conservation, and we look forward to continuing to improve public access to our nation’s healthy fisheries.”

Through the directed generosity of sportsmen and women across the U.S. and Canada, the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund is changing the world for the better.

“The Modern Fish Act signed by the President provides an opportunity for significant, positive change on behalf of millions of recreational anglers who enjoy fishing in federal waters,” said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “We look forward to working with NOAA Fisheries, the regional fishery management councils and the states to fully implement the provisions of the bill and improve federal fisheries management for America’s saltwater anglers.”

Johnny Morris (right) co-chaired the Morris Deal-Commission, and is pictured here with Richard Childress (middle), son John Paul Morris (left) and a giant permit. Recommendations outlined in the commission’s report led to the Modern Fish Act.

Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops worked actively to help ensure the bill’s passage and influenced the groundswell that inspired its creation. Our focus on the Modern Fish Act continues, funding partners whose work in the advocacy and conservation space ensures that the bill’s implementation lives up to its promise. No matter where or how you fish, this work benefits every recreational saltwater angler in the United States.

Understanding the importance of the Modern Fish Act requires a bit of background on how fish populations are managed at the federal level.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act

In 1976, Congress passed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The bill established U.S. control of fisheries in its waters and created eight regional fisheries management councils around the United States. Magnuson-Stevens provided much of the framework through which fisheries are managed today. Its primary focus lies with commercial fishing.

As the recreational fishing industry developed, there became a need to incorporate its interests into federal policy. The Magnuson-Stevens Act did not include any mechanism through which to do this.

Anglers from coast to coast will benefit from the Modern Fish Act.

To address this glaring need, Johnny Morris co-chaired the Morris-Deal Commission in 2013. Comprised of stakeholders from across the sportfishing, boating and tourism-related industries, the commission formed to provide recommendations for including recreational fishing in policy. It was groundbreaking work.

The inter-disciplinary commission produced the 2014 Morris-Deal Report, identifying six key recommendations, including establishing a national policy for recreational fishing and revising management to account for sportfishing.  In a direct sense, the 2014 Morris-Deal Report led to the movement that created the Modern Fish Act of 2018.

Passage of the Modern Fish Act of 2018 was not only a tremendous victory for all sportsmen and women. It was also very, very good for fish and the oceans. Translating the recommendations such as those of the Morris-Deal Report into the Modern Fish Act involved many people and many partners. Beyond recognizing the power and influence of the US recreational saltwater fishing community, success required coordinated efforts by many of the leading conservation organizations across the saltwater landscape.

Implementation of the Modern Fish Act

After passage of the bill in 2018, the work has transitioned to ensuring its implementation. The Outdoor Fund provides grants to conservation partners such as the Congressional Sportsmen’s Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Center for Sportfishing Policy, the American Sportfishing Association and others. These groups ensure compliance and monitor progress.

The Modern Fish Act of 2018 gives the next generation of fishermen and women in the United States something to smile about.

While the processes that made the Modern Fish Act of 2018 possible may be complicated, its results are not. Recreational fishermen and women across the United States will enjoy its benefits now and for decades to come.

You can find this story, and everything you need for saltwater fishing, in our 2022 World Wide Sportsman Saltwater Specialist Catalog.