The Recreational Fishing Alliance is commending the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for soliciting angler feedback and coordinating agencies and efforts regarding a national fishing policy.
In April, NOAA Fisheries announced plans to develop such a policy. Earlier this month, the federal fisheries arm of the Department of Commerce began taking that recreational fishing policy door to door to solicit input and opinion from recreational fishermen and fisheries managers across the country.
The RFA commended the group for scheduling meetings with stakeholders outside the Washington, D.C., area.
"One problem in the past was that NOAA Fisheries would hold invitation-only meetings in the Washington, D.C., area, but the saltwater anglers and marine business owners are going to their state and regional council meetings to express concerns, and that's where these types of sessions should be held," RFA executive director Jim Donofrio said in a statement. "Kudos to NOAA for coming out into the public arena for public input and especially for being able to face angler frustration head-on."
The first in a series of public town hall meetings was held June 9 in Ponte Verde, Fla., at a meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. A second one was held last week in Freehold, N.J., at a meeting of the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
NOAA Fisheries staff is distributing a national saltwater recreational fisheries policy discussion guide and a one-pager that explains the overall concept.
"NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency responsible for the stewardship of our ocean and coastal resources, is asking for your help in developing an agency-wide saltwater recreational fisheries policy," the agency describes online. "We are creating this policy to institutionalize within NOAA the key tenets of recreational fishing. The policy will be a thoughtful set of principles to guide agency actions and decisions over the long term."
RFA managing director Jim Hutchinson attended last week's town hall gathering and encouraged anglers and business owners to consider attending the meetings.
“There are some constructive components of this policy draft, and there are also a lot of folks chiming in on things that many anglers might not want to see included, so this is a good opportunity for our sector,” Hutchinson said.
"RFA is appreciative of NOAA's efforts to come out to the public and hear firsthand about the flawed data collection, especially, and how it's impacting the recreational fishing culture," Hutchinson said. "RFA is also happy because by actively establishing this national policy for recreational fishing, it should be one less principle to worry about in terms of reforming the Magnuson Stevens Act."
"RFA will be submitting input to NOAA Fisheries regarding the policy, and we urge anglers to participate in the process, as well," Donofrio added.