Alexandria, VA – June 8, 2023 – On June 7, 2023, U.S. Representatives Maria Salazar (R-Fla.) and Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.) and Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced the Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act of 2023.
The bill would create a grant program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for projects that take children fishing in the ocean or Great Lakes, with priority given to projects that serve underserved communities. This legislation is in line with the American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA’s) goal of introducing new anglers – particularly young people – to recreational fishing.
“Recreational fishing provides substantial physical and mental health benefits, but unfortunately many young people – particularly in underserved communities – face significant barriers in accessing the outdoors,” said Mike Leonard, the American Sportfishing Association’s Vice President of Government Affairs. “The grants provided through this bill will go a long way to remove those barriers and help children develop a love of fishing. We thank Representatives Salazar and Kamlager-Dove and Senators Wicker and Cantwell for their work on the Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act and are excited about the generations of new anglers it will help create.”
“As someone who knows and recognizes the importance of the marine and aquatic environment, it is critical to provide younger generations of Americans across the country, especially minority Americans, the opportunity to learn firsthand about our seas, oceans, lakes, and outdoors, as well as provide them with the tools to enjoy them,” said Rep. Salazar.
“Our nation is home to beautiful rivers, oceans, and lakes. As we prepare to commemorate World Oceans Day, I am proud to continue the legacy of the late Congressman Donald McEachin by reintroducing the Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act with Congresswoman Salazar and Senators Wicker and Cantwell to educate our youth on different marine environments, as well as vital conservation measures we must take to combat the climate crisis,” Kamlager-Dove said. “It is especially important that historically disadvantaged youth have opportunities to learn about aquatic life and marine sciences to harbor their curiosity in these fields. Ensuring our nation’s children have rich, diverse educational experiences allows them to fully embrace their surroundings and thrive as students and individuals.”
“We should be encouraging young Americans to get involved in fishing,” Wicker said. “Our legislation will help remove barriers to accessing the outdoors and ensure that more young anglers, especially those in underserved communities, have the opportunity to enjoy this beloved pastime.”
“Fishing is one of our favorite pastimes in the Pacific Northwest, and our bill will support Washington state organizations that take kids fishing in their local coastal waters, rivers, and bays,” Cantwell said. “This bill will help more kids get the tools, gear, and support they need to experience the outdoors and the benefits that come with it.”
The bill provides $2 million in grants over each of the next five years for projects that include a recreational fishing experience for youth, offer education about marine science and conservation and provide information on where or how to fish. While other federal land management agencies, such as the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Forest Service, have dedicated programs to connect the public to nature, there is no such recreation program within the NOAA Fisheries, which manages federal marine fisheries.
A handout on the bill can be found here, bill text can be found here and a letter of support signed by 21 organizations can be found here. ASA encourages its members to visit our Keep America Fishing action alert to contact their Members of Congress asking them to support the bill.
This article was originally published in the American Sportfishing Association Newsletter.