After significant objection from the recreational fishing and boating community, the National Marine Fisheries Service is taking steps to correct a key fisheries economics report that misleadingly indicated that the domestic commercial fishing industry in the United States was significantly larger than the recreational fishing industry.
When imported seafood, which is not regulated or managed by the Fisheries Service, is removed from the equation, the corrected data show that the recreational fishing industry is actually $7.9 billion larger than the commercial fishing industry.
Furthermore, the corrected data show that the domestic commercial fishing industry actually decreased by $2.3 billion in 2012.
“When seafood imports, industrial species, shellfish and fish that aren’t caught by recreational anglers are removed, recreational fishing generates $33.3 billion more than their commercial counterparts while taking far fewer pounds of fish,” Coastal Conservation Association conservation director Ted Venker said in a statement. “That is the apples-to-apples number that needs to be considered when we are talking about management decisions that impact domestic fisheries, and it is important that NOAA corrected the data.”
In late April, the Fisheries Service released its Fisheries Economics of the United States 2012 with the headline “NOAA Reports Show Strong Economic Gains from Fishing, Continued Improvement in Fish Stocks,” but there was no indication that the agency had changed the way the economic impact data were compiled in the report.
Previously, the Fisheries Service separated imports from domestic industry figures and reported each separately. In the latest report, the agency eliminated that distinction and simply published a total that included domestic and imported seafood.
As such, topics such as imports from illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, 75,000 pounds of shark fins and shrimp harvested by practices that the U.S. has banned were included in the totals for the domestic commercial sector.
“It was important to set the record straight because people naturally use this report to compare the two sectors, and combining imported seafood with domestically caught seafood gives an overinflated and incorrect representation of the economic impact of this country’s commercial fishing industry,” American Sportfishing Association president and CEO Mike Nussman said.
“This is particularly risky if this information is used to halt progress on important management decisions, such as how fisheries are allocated between the two sectors. More than 64 percent of the total sales of seafood is generated by imported product, which should have no bearing whatsoever on allocation discussions.”
Recreational fishing and boating organizations, including the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association and National Marine Manufacturers Association recently met with agency officials to request a correction.
The agency refused to reprint the report, but did release a web query that allows individuals to remove imports and generate an accurate report on their own.