On September 22, the Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act of 2022 was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Maria Salazar (R-FL) and Donald McEachin (D-VA), along with 19 bipartisan cosponsors including Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) and Tom Suozzi (D-NY). The Senate version was introduced by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
The bill would create a grant program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for projects that take children fishing with priority given to underserved communities.
According to Senators Wicker and Cantwell – ranking member and chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation respectively – the bill would provide more young people with recreational fishing experiences and increase future fishing participation by establishing a grant program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for underserved communities.
“More of our children should be fishing,” Senator Wicker said, adding “My Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act would get more young anglers, particularly in underserved communities, out on the water enjoying this pastime.”
According the proposed Senate version of the bill, an eligible entity that receives grant funding through this program would be able to use the award amount “for purposes related to conducting a youth fishing project including the purchase or rental of fishing equipment; the cost of transporting participants to and from a youth fishing project; fees associated with boat rental, pier access or other facilities; fishing license purchases; fishing guide costs; or such other expenses related to conducting a youth fishing project as the Secretary (Commerce) considers appropriate.”
The Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act of 2022 would also give priority to applications which contain proposals for youth fishing projects focused on an underserved community. According to the American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA’s), the legislation falls in line with their goal of introducing new anglers – particularly young people – to recreational fishing.
“Countless studies show that while there are ample health benefits to spending time on the water with family and friends, young people and those in underserved communities face significant barriers in accessing the outdoors,” said ASA’s Vice President of Government Affairs Mike Leonard. “The grants provided through this bill will go a long way to remove those barriers and help children develop a love of fishing.”
“Too many young Americans face serious financial, social, and geographic barriers to experiencing our outdoors,” said Rep. McEachin. “No child should be unable to participate in outdoor recreation simply because of their socioeconomic status or zip code.”
“The bipartisan Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act will provide our youth, especially those in historically underserved communities, with new opportunities to get outside, cultivate a love and appreciation for fishing, and learn more about marine science and conservation,” Rep. McEachin
According to the legislation, a total of $2 million in grants would be distributed to projects that include a recreational fishing experience, offer education about marine science and conservation and provide information on where or how to fish. Additionally, grant applications will receive priority if focused on serving underserved communities.