Anglers urged to weigh in on Pacific Ocean marine preserve

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The marine industry has until Friday to comment on President Obama’s proposal to expand a Pacific Ocean marine preserve, effectively making it the world’s largest at 700,000 square miles.

It’s important for recreational anglers to ask that recreational fishing be exempt from the proposal now, says Mike Leonard, ocean resource policy director with the American Sportfishing Association, who met with the White House Council on Environmental Quality last week regarding the pending monument expansion.

“Personally I think the odds of recreational fishing being completely banned, either at the outset or after management plan development, are low,” Leonard told Trade Only Today. “I honestly think the administration hasn’t yet decided how to treat us in this, so input from our community can be very valuable.”

The Council on Environmental Quality made several comments during the meeting that they want to “do right by us,” Leonard said.

“In my mind, the question is whether we’ll have to wait several years for a management plan to be developed that allows for recreational fishing, as was the case for the original monument declaration, or whether in his proclamation the president will specifically state that recreational fishing will be allowed,” Leonard said.

President Obama announced in June that he will expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, making the large area off-limits to fishing, energy exploration and other activities. The action expands upon and more than quadruples a protective measure that former President George W. Bush took in 2009.

Although there is currently little or no recreational fishing or boating occurring in the area being considered for expansion, Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, also urged anglers to weigh in on the matter.

“By banning recreational fishing, the president would be sending the alarming message that at any time, and without justification, he and future presidents can close huge areas of America’s public waters to the American public,” Angers told Trade Only in an email.

Boating United, a site set up by the National Marine Manufacturers Association to mobilize the industry on policy issues, is asking for anglers and those in the recreational industry to submit comment before the Friday deadline.

Fishery council members in the affected region have also come out in opposition to including recreational angling in the expansion, saying those that do fish the waters report that foreign fleets illegally mine the areas.

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council chairman Arnold Palacios said during the video press conference that when President Bush set the original monument in 2009 “there were a lot of promises” about the benefits to the local communities. “Today we’re five years, six years into the establishment of this monument, and very little revenue that was promised us has trickled down.”