NOAA details new national fishing policy

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service announced a new national policy aimed at better serving the nation’s 11 million recreational saltwater anglers last week at the Miami International Boat Show.

NOAA fisheries administrator Eileen Sobeck said the policy creates a collaborative stewardship that promotes safe public access to fishery resources, fishery sustainability and regulatory accountability suited to the unique nature of recreational fishing.

“We know there’s a difference between commercial and recreational fishing,” Sobek said. The new policy looks for approaches best able to accommodate the needs of both while achieving fishery conservation and management goals, she said.

“This is a valuable road map of how we can do business in the future. It will require engagement from both sides,” she said. “It is a step on the journey.”

The policy is made up of six principles that the fisheries service said will guide decision-making and activities in the execution of the fisheries service stewardship responsibilities. The principles are:

  1. Support ecosystem conservation and enhancement.
  2. Promote public access to quality recreational fishing opportunities.
  3. Coordinate with state and federal management entities.
  4. Advance innovative solutions to evolving science, management and environmental challenges.
  5. Provide scientifically sound and trusted social, cultural, economic and ecological information.
  6. Communicate and engage with the recreational fishing public.

“The value will be derived from [the policy’s] implementation,” said Russ Dunn, NOAA adviser for recreational fisheries.

NOAA and the fisheries service’s new national policy stems from a need for fishery stewardship and from a promise Sobeck made in April 2014. In February 2014 the non-governmental Morris-Deal Commission published a report highlighting a series of concepts to improve the stewardship of saltwater recreational fisheries. Jonny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boats, wrote the Morris-Deal report, which is titled “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.”

In April 2014, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission held the second National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit with fishermen from across the nation. At the summit, Sobeck announced her intent to create a new fisheries policy. The policy was released for the first time at the Miami boat show.

Dunn said the policy addresses years of disconnect between recreational fishermen and government agencies. He said after a summit between NOAA and 100 leaders in the recreational fishing industry in 2010, NOAA and recreational fishermen could see there were huge problems in their relationship.

Now, after several summits, cautious steps and continuous work toward closing the gaps between them, including 34 public hearings, NOAA’s new policy offers a framework for action.

“We see enormous challenges, but also enormous opportunities,” he said.

A 2012 NOAA reports found that recreational fishing supports 381,000 jobs and generates $58 billion in annual sales. The National Marine Manufacturers Association recently reported that recreational boating is a $36.8 billion industry that creates more than 339,000 marine industry jobs and supports 35,000 businesses.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, beginning as a commission in 1871, has played a continuous role in the stewardship of the nation’s marine resources.