Several stakeholders in the recreational fishing and boating industries released a set of recommendations for the incoming administration and Congress to change the way federal overseers allocate saltwater fish.
The Center for Coastal Conservation and its 10 member groups issued a report recommending a government shift away from using the same tools to manage commercial fisheries as it does for recreational fishing at a federal level.
“One of the most important things in the document we put forward is the recommendation that we get our own Recreational Fishing Advisory Committee,” Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers told Trade Only Today. “The current Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee is dominated by the commercial industry. We really need our own. We have a different industry, different constituents, different environmental impacts.”
“Most anglers come from a background where the states manage fish and game for the benefit of all users, not only those users who were gifted some portion of it for their personal profit,” stated the document, called A Vision for Marine Fisheries Management in the 21st Century: Priorities for a New Administration. “Anglers expect that federal fishery resources will be managed the same way, but they are not.”
“Few Americans realize that NOAA divides up the total fish catch between for-profit commercial companies and recreational anglers,” the document said. “NOAA makes this allocation based on historical catch numbers from decades ago — when millions fewer of us were enjoying America’s coastal waters for recreational fishing. The doors to reallocation have long been rusted shut.”
The vision is “an evolution” of the Morris-Deal Commission report — a document released in 2014 outlining what should be changed regarding the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the governing legislation on federal fisheries management, according to Martin Peters, government relations manager for the Yamaha Marine Group.
“I see this as an evolution of Morris-Deal and it is delivered in a time that is critical,” Peters told Trade Only. “Next year is when we’re hoping the Senate will take up reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens. The CCC is leading the effort to see that key members of the Senate understand the potential value of alternative management methods and the need for change in the way marine fisheries are managed, and also the economic impact that recreational anglers have in coastal communities — and the country.”
For instance, Yamaha has a propeller plant in Indiana that casts stainless props for outboard-powered boats. “That’s a growing enterprise for us. It’s in Indianapolis, Ind., and even though it’s not on the coast, a huge percentage of that ends up on the coast on boats used in salt water,” Peters said. “It’s not just coastal economies that are affected by recreational fishing and boating; it’s the entire marine industry. It’s almost 500,000 jobs that depend upon recreational fishing.”
“The other thing that’s significant in this vision is it will help members of Congress and their staff understand the economic impact of what we do,” Peters said. “We generate $70 billion annually — that’s nothing to sneeze at. I think any staff member or member of Congress will certainly get that message.”
Besides allocation and economic impact, the document also focuses on other types of government oversight regarding recreational fishing.
A recent expansion of two Pacific marine monuments and a new marine monument in the Atlantic explicitly make a distinction between the two, banning commercial fishing, but allowing for recreational angling.
“While we have been pleased to see important decisions made in recent years to maintain access in various federal waters, the sportfishing community has also unfortunately seen federal management policies in some National Parks, National Marine Sanctuaries and National Marine Monuments prevent anglers from accessing these public resources,” the document said, citing the Biscayne National Park closing in Florida.
“Total access closures, such as marine reserves, should be a measure of last resort and only be considered after well-enforced traditional fisheries management tools have been exhausted,” the report said. “Too often, access closures have been unnecessarily implemented before less impactful — and historically successful — tactics have been attempted. Bag limits, size limits, quotas and seasonal closures must have all been unsuccessfully tried before a total closure merits consideration.”
“We want Americans to have access to America’s public resources. That’s an issue handled by many different federal agencies,” Angers said.
“This document is an important step in communicating with the next administration about the importance of recreational fishing and boating and the need for fundamental changes in the way saltwater recreational fisheries are managed. Recreational fisheries need to be managed to maximize opportunities to fish,” National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich said in an email.
“It is great to see all the major associations involved in fisheries issues coming together to produce and deliver this important vision document to the transition teams and members of Congress.”
“While progress has been made in recent years to improve saltwater recreational fisheries management, many important opportunities and challenges remain,” ASA president and CEO Mike Nussman said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the next administration to fully develop our outdoor economy, including embracing the important role that saltwater recreational fishing plays in creating jobs and promoting sustainable enjoyment of our nation’s fisheries resources.”
Read more about the specific recommendations in the December issue of Soundings Trade Only.