Today, legislation was introduced in Congress to provide opportunities for youth to enjoy the outdoors. The Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act of 2022 was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.) and Donald McEachin (D-Va.), along with 19 bipartisan cosponsors. The Senate version was introduced by Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).
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. This legislation falls in line with the American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA’s) 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. We thank Representatives Salazar and McEachin and Senators Wicker and Cantwell for their work on this issue and look forward to its bipartisan support in Congress.”
“As someone who knows and recognizes the bounties of the marine and aquatic environment, I am pleased to provide younger generations of Americans across the country, especially minority Americans, the opportunity to learn firsthand about our seas, oceans and lakes, as well as provide them with the tools to enjoy them,” said Representative Salazar.
“Too many young Americans face serious financial, social, and geographic barriers to experiencing our outdoors,” said Representative 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.”
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.
“More of our children should be fishing,” said Senator Wicker. “My Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act would get more young anglers, particularly in underserved communities, out on the water enjoying this 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,” said Senator Cantwell. “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.”
In the House, in addition to Reps. Salazar and McEachin, the Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act of 2022 is cosponsored by Representatives Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Troy Carter (D-La.), Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-Am. Sam.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Randy Weber (R-Tx.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.), Jenniffer González-Colón (R-P.R.), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Austin Scott (R-Ga.).
A handout on the bill can be found here, and a letter of support signed by 21 organizations can be found here.