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Sportfishing Stakeholders see Opportunity and Concern in New Seafood Executive Order

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Recreational fishing stakeholders are applauding the Trump administration’s move to expand aquaculture but are concerned efforts to “increase production” will lead to overfishing.

The American Sportfishing Association and the Coastal Conservation Association gave a mixed response to President Trump’s “Executive Order on Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth,” which instructs federal agencies to expand “sustainable seafood production in the United States.”

The order includes furthering more efficient and predictable aquaculture permitting processes; accelerating regulatory reform to maximize commercial fishing; and upholding “common-sense” restrictions on seafood imports that don’t meet American standards.

In addition to its focus on aquaculture, the Executive Order requires each Regional Fishery Management Council to identify actions to reduce burdens on domestic fishing and to increase production within sustainable fisheries, including a proposal for initiating each recommended action within one year.

“Nearly all U.S. federal marine fisheries are managed at maximum sustainable yield,” said ASA government affairs vice president Mike Leonard in a statement. “Unlike so many recreational fisheries, in which access is limited by poor data and inappropriate management approaches, there’s not much room to increase commercial harvest without risking overfishing.”

“While federal law provides protections against overfishing, we’re still concerned that requiring fishery managers to ‘increase production’ may come at the expense of conservation and recreational fishing. We would strongly object to any actions that would increase unsustainable commercial fishing practices or reduce recreational fishing access,” said Leonard.

“There is the potential for NOAA Fisheries to interpret this order as encouraging increased use of destructive commercial fishing gears such as longlines, gill nets and trawls, which would be a tremendous step backwards for marine conservation,” said Ted Venker, conservation director for CCA. “This is an opportunity to chart a new future for domestic seafood production and should not be wasted on enhancing the worst fishing practices of the past.”

Both groups said they looked forward to working with the Trump Administration to expand aquaculture.

“We support the Trump Administration’s goal of developing a stronger U.S. aquaculture industry,” said Big Rock Sports industry relations senior vice president and ASA government affairs chairman Gary Zurn. “Well-regulated and environmentally sustainable aquaculture provides a tremendous opportunity to produce more U.S. jobs and provide an additional food source without putting additional pressure on wild stocks that are so important to recreational anglers.”

“Ideally, a properly managed national aquaculture program could greatly reduce or eliminate destructive commercial fishing gear and associated bycatch from America’s marine waters while producing domestically raised seafood,” said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA’s national government relations committee.

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