Angler-Backed Law Strengthens Billfish Conservation Act

The Billfish Conservation Act prohibits the sale or trade of billfish on the U.S, mainland. (Photo courtesy International Game Fish Association)

Fishing groups are applauding the signing into a law last week of a bill that strengthens an existing law that promotes billfish conservation by curtailing the sale or trade of billfish on the U.S. mainland.

House Bill 4528, signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on Aug. 2, amended the Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 by "stating that no billfish can be entered into trade or sold in the continental United States," the International Game Fish Association said in a news release. 

Marlin, sailfish and spearfish (collectively known as billfish) are internationally revered by recreational anglers and produce significant regional economic benefits from catch and release fisheries, but many billfish stocks are in a depleted state. In 2007, the IGFA commissioned a study investigating the international billfish trade that found that the United States was the world's biggest importer of billfish. This led to a collaborative effort by the IGFA and Wild Oceans to create the Take Marlin off the Menu campaign that ultimately culminated in the passage of the BCA, which banned the importation of billfish to the continental United States. — International Game Fish Association news release

The original BCA brought up questions about whether billfish caught commercially in Hawaii and other Pacific territories could still to be shipped to the U.S. mainland and circumvent the law's original intent.

The amendment closes that loophole and states that billfish caught in Hawaii and elsewhere in the Pacific must be retained in those locations.

"This law solidifies the original intent of the Billfish Conservation Act in that no marlin, sailfish or spearfish are to be sold in the continental United States, regardless of where it is caught," said IGFA Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser.

Blue Marlin. (Photo courtesy of International Game Fish Association)
"Wild Oceans and IGFA began the Take Marlin off the Menu campaign 10 years ago because we believe the future of these magnificent fish is not for sale," said Ken Hinman, president of the conservation group Wild Oceans. "This simple 'technical amendment' ensures that billfish receive the full protection from commercial exploitation that the Billfish Conservation Act intended."
The amendment was initially introduced as Senate Bill 396, which was introduced in February of 2017 and passed eight months later. An identical bill was passed by the House of Representatives on June 25.
"This important amendment to the BCA advances the United States' position as a leader in billfish conservation and sets an example for other countries to pursue similar conservation efforts to protect billfish stocks," the IGFA said.

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