January Policy Watch From the ASA

A look at some of the stories and actions from the month of January that affect the interest of the sportfishing and boating industries.

On January 1, 2023, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act (S. 273) was enacted. This law bans the use of large mesh drift gillnets in federal waters. Many non-target species, including sportfishing species and marine mammals, were caught in these nets used by commercial swordfish vessels in California. The phase out of this destructive gear is a victory for fisheries conservation. After years of hard work, ASA is pleased to see the bill become law. To learn more, listen to The Politics of Fish Podcast episode with Wild Ocean’s Theresa Labriola.

EPA Protects Bristol Bay 

On January 30, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they would apply the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. This final determination ensures that Bristol Bay and its iconic fishery is permanently protected against the Pebble Mine development. EPA’s decision comes after Alaska’s Region 10 office recommended applying 404c protections. ASA applauds this move, which ensures anglers can access one of the world’s most important salmon fisheries. Read more in our press release.

ASA Government Affairs 2023 Sportfishing Priorities

ASA accomplished a lot in the last Congress, but there are still many priorities ahead to advance fisheries conservation, preserve fishing access and promote sound trade and commerce policy. ASA’s many 2023 legislative priorities include:

  1. Increase youth fishing opportunities through the Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act
  2. Support reasonable protections for North Atlantic Right Whales
  3. Tackle the threat of aquatic invasive species
  4. Advance fisheries conservation in the Farm Bill
  5. Improve recreation through the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act

ASA Vice President of Government Affairs, Mike Leonard, details these priorities in a recent video feature. To learn more on Government Affairs, visit ASA’s Advocacy page.

ASA’s Gary Jennings Part of Coral Reef Initiative 

ASA’s Keep Florida Fishing Director, Gary Jennings, was chosen to serve on the Fishing Stakeholder group for the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI). SEFCRI works to address key threats facing coral reefs by bringing government and non-governmental stakeholders together to advance collaborative action in southeast Florida. Coral reefs are essential habitat for sportfish such as Florida’s iconic snapper and grouper. Jennings involvement in this initiative reaffirms the need to account for both these species, and recreational anglers, in creating effective conservation measures.

Washington State News

In November 2022, Washington state implemented a non-tribal voluntary gillnet buyback program for the Lower Columbia, Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, resulting in roughly a 70% reduction in the state’s gillnet permit holders. Oregon has not reduced gillnet use so it’s unclear how conservation savings will be calculated. This month, Senate Bill (SB 5297) was introduced in the Washington state legislature, which would prohibit commercial non-treaty gillnetting in the Columbia River mainstem. This bill is intended to reduce impacts to wild steelhead and salmon, ensuring populations experiencing low returns have a chance to recover. Gov. Jay Inslee released his 2023-25 proposed budget, which included critical funding for fisheries, in December 2022. Among his priorities are funding to improve salmon hatcheries and critical habitat.

NOAA Fisheries Considers Listing Chinook As Endangered 

Endangered Species Act listings are being considered for Oregon Coast chinook salmon and Southern Oregon and Northern California coastal chinook salmon. Twice before, NOAA Fisheries ruled out listing these chinook populations. This time around NOAA Fisheries found the petition, filed by the Native Fish Society, the Center for Biological Diversity and Umpqua Watersheds, “presents substantial scientific and commercial information indicating the petitioned actions may be warranted.” The next step is for NOAA Fisheries to conduct assessments of the populations to decide whether to list or not. NOAA Fisheries has 12 months to conduct a review to determine if the petitioned action is warranted.

Offshore Wind Energy Update

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released proposed rulemaking to update offshore wind standards. The proposal suggests establishing a five-year offshore wind auction schedule and revising financial assurance terms. BOEM has promised a 60-day comment period on this rulemaking. BOEM made another rulemaking proposal, that would transfer safety and compliance responsibilities to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). Both rules are designed to better systematize offshore wind development, a Biden-administration priority.

Catch Up on The Politics of Fish Podcast  

ASA’s podcast, The Politics of Fish has been helping listeners better understand the complexities of the legislative and regulatory issues affecting sportfishing. Recent episodes include conversations on a novel halibut quota approach in Alaska, the driftnet modernization law, federal marine fisheries policy and the importance of sportsmen working together. New episodes are released biweekly, so stay tuned! Our archive of episodes is always available here.

Stay Up-to-Date with The Sportfishing Advocate Blog

ASA’s number one role is advocating for the business interests of the sportfishing industry. ASA’s blog – The Sportfishing Advocate – seeks to explain in layman’s terms the often-complicated mechanisms behind legislative and regulatory policy decisions. Blogs in January included updates on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and 2022 success and 2023 goals. Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to keep up to date on the blog posts and other ASA information.

If there is an issue that you are concerned about or would like to discuss, please contact Mike Leonard by email or at (703) 519-9691 x 230.


The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry’s trade association committed to representing the interests of the sportfishing and boating industries as well as the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry and anglers a unified voice when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. ASA invests in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous, as well as safeguard and promote the enduring economic, conservation and social values of sportfishing in America. ASA also gives America’s 55 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation’s waterways through Keep America Fishing, our national angler advocacy campaign. America’s anglers generate nearly $50 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for 800,000 people.