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NOAA lends support to saltwater-fishing policy

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries released a plan to support the latest policy regarding recreational saltwater fishing, for the first time incorporating several concerns voiced by the boating and fishing communities.

The implementation plan is designed to support the latest National Saltwater Recreational Fishing Policy, which was announced at the Progressive Miami International Boat Show in February.

The implementation plan, released last Wednesday, provides details about how NOAA Fisheries will focus its efforts over a four-year period of time to support the new recreational fishing policy that takes guidelines set in the 2014 Morris-Deal Commission.

“The policy was a good road map, but this implementation plan sets the agency on a really good path,” Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers said in a statement. “There are several major commitments in the plan, but I am most impressed with two: the agency’s commitments to engage the regional fishery management councils to review harvest allocations on a regular basis and initiate a National Research Council review of the Marine Recreational Information Program.”

The policy itself recognizes “the substantial benefits to the nation associated with saltwater recreational fishing and is committed to pursuing a collaborative stewardship approach promoting safe public access to fishery resources, fishery sustainability, and regulatory accountability suited to the unique nature of recreational fisheries.”

“In February 2014, the non-governmental Morris-Deal Commission published a report highlighting a series of concepts to improve stewardship of saltwater recreational fisheries, including formulation of a national policy,” the policy states.

“In April 2014, NMFS and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission conducted the second National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit with constituents from across the nation,” it says. “NMFS announced its intent to transparently develop a recreational fisheries policy statement for release early in 2015 at the conclusion of the summit.”

“This implementation plan is where the rubber meets the road for NOAA’s National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy,” American Sportfishing Association ocean resource policy director Mike Leonard said. “The recreational fishing community can now see the specific steps the agency plans to take to meet the laudatory goals described in the policy and can hold the agency accountable to follow through. If NOAA Fisheries achieves all of these actions, which include nearly all of the recommendations of the Morris-Deal Report, saltwater recreational fishing in the U.S. will be in a much better place.”

“NOAA Fisheries Administrator Eileen Sobeck and her team have truly earned a round of applause,” National Marine Manufacturers Association legislative council Jeff Gabriel said.

“It’s one thing to make a commitment to draft a saltwater recreational fishing policy within NOAA Fisheries and to then craft a solid implementation document, but to do so in administrator Sobeck’s first year is a feat, particularly given NOAA Fisheries’ history of neglect of the recreational fishing community,” Gabriel said. “This is a definite boost in morale that our troops have needed to keep fighting the good fight. Even though future battles undoubtedly lay before us, we can take some small comfort that we are making progress and our collective efforts are beginning to pay off.”