An announcement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that NOAA Fisheries will develop a national recreational fishing policy was greeted enthusiastically by sportfishing and boating leaders who have urged the agency to adopt exactly this approach to define and coordinate efforts throughout the federal government, and particularly the National Marine Fisheries Service, to advance saltwater recreational fishing.
NOAA Fisheries’ announcement capped off its national 2014 Saltwater Recreational Fishing Summit held April 1-2, in Alexandria, Va. Leaders from the saltwater recreational fishing and boating community met with NOAA Fisheries’ leadership to assess recent progress, identify goals and strengthen ties between NOAA and stakeholder groups.
“With the ‘Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries’ report as our guiding document, we came to the NOAA Summit with a clear vision for where saltwater recreational fisheries management must go," said American Sportfishing Association (ASA) President and CEO Mike Nussman. "NOAA is clearly listening, as evidenced by their immediate commitment to accomplish the first goal of the report: to establish a national policy for saltwater recreational fisheries management. We’re looking forward to working with NOAA to accomplish this goal, as well as the other key recommendations presented in the report."
The announcement comes on the heels of a recent series of meetings on Capitol Hill during which the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, co-chaired by Johnny Morris, founder and CEO, Bass Pro Shops and Maverick Boats President Scott Deal, presented recommendations from “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.” This new report outlines recreational fisheries management issues that need to be addressed in the congressional reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, the law that governs the nation’s marine resources. Chief among those recommendations is the establishment of a national policy for recreational saltwater fishing.
“In order for our nation to understand and embrace the positive aspects of recreational saltwater fishing in this country – be they the economic, cultural or quality-of-life benefits – our fisheries managers need to have policies and laws that reflect recreational interests,” said Deal. “NOAA has demonstrated it is ready to develop those policies.”
The commission, composed of anglers, scientists, former agency administrators, conservationists and economists, as well as prominent members of the industry, wants to ensure that saltwater recreational fishing becomes a priority of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. In 2011, approximately 11 million Americans saltwater fished recreationally, making them one of NOAA’s largest organized constituencies and one with a substantial economic impact.
“America’s 11 million saltwater recreational anglers spent $27 billion in 2011, generating more than $70 billion and sustaining 450,000 jobs,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The importance of this economic sector – and its contributions to fisheries habitat and conservation via excise taxes, donations and license fees – cannot be ignored. We commend NOAA Fisheries for acknowledging it.”
Improving collaboration and communication between NOAA and the recreational fishing community is a goal for all stakeholders. In recent years, the recreational fishing community and NOAA have partnered to advance FishSmart, a program designed to promote tools and techniques to improve the survivability of released fish. During the NOAA Summit, Nussman announced that SeaQualizer, a tackle manufacturer and ASA member, has committed to cover half of the cost to provide 1,000 SeaQualizer devices to charter boats in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The SeaQualizer device reduces barotrauma in fish, which is a primary goal of FishSmart.
Nussman also commended Gary Zurn, ?senior vice president of Industry Relations for Big Rock Sports, a tackle wholesale company and ASA member, for offering to NOAA Big Rock’s support for an upcoming national survey on the economic value of coastal fishing tackle retailers.
“These are just two examples of how critical collaboration is to improving not only the relationship between NOAA Fisheries and the recreational fishing community, but also to improving management, and ultimately, on-the-water opportunities,” said Nussman. “We commend SeaQualizer and Big Rock Sports for demonstrating how industry and agency leaders can work together for recreational fishing’s future.”