NOAA unveils saltwater fishing agenda

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Tuesday released the first regional saltwater recreational fishing action plans designed to help improve fishing opportunities and address priorities in each of the nation’s six coastal regions, and for the angling community that fishes for tuna and other highly migratory species.

In 2010, saltwater recreational fishing contributed $50 billion in sales to the U.S. economy and supported 326,000 jobs in fishing and across the broader economy, NOAA said.

The new action agendas mark the first time NOAA has both national and regional strategies in place to address the priorities of the nation’s estimated 11 million saltwater anglers. They took about 73 million fishing trips in 2010.

“We worked closely with saltwater anglers and their supporters on plans designed to improve stewardship and fishing today and for future generations,” Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service, said in a statement. “We’ll revisit the regional action plans regularly to ensure we continue to address our shared goals.”

A few examples of top priorities in the six regions include:

Hawaii and the Pacific Islands:a project to increase the number of fish available in the future by improving the survival of fish caught and released by anglers.

    Alaska:a project to identify and restore important fish-spawning habitat by opening up fish passages on rivers and streams and removing marine debris.

      Northwest:a project to develop and evaluate a new, more flexible management approach for Chinook salmon that may allow for increased recreational fishing.

        Southwest:multiple cooperative scientific research projects with anglers to improve the survival of fish caught and released by anglers and improve information on recreational catch and effort.

          Northeast:a project to work with the regional fishery management councils to ensure that Atlantic herring, mackerel, squid and butterfish populations are maintained at healthy levels. The project also would focus on reducing the unintended catch of forage fish, such as river herring, which are important food for striped bass and other fish prized by saltwater anglers.

            Southeast:a project to investigate more flexible management strategies to provide greater fishing opportunities to the charterboats and other recreational “for-hire” boats.

              Each of the regional action agendas includes projects that address the five national recreational fishing action goals, which are:

              • Improving recreational fishing opportunities.

                • Improving recreational catch, effort and stock status data.

                  • Improving social and economic data on recreational fisheries.

                    • Improving communications.

                      • Improving institutional orientation to promote greater understanding of saltwater angling issues.

                        The new action agendas include ongoing projects or projects expected to be completed in the next 12 to 24 months, NOAA said.

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