National Recreational Fishing Summit ends on a hopeful note
The National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit sponsored by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries department was held last week at the Westin Crystal City hotel in Arlington, VA. One hundred participants throughout the county from the recreational fishing community (including myself) were invited with an equal number of observers participating in the two day meeting.
NOAA’s staff did a good job organizing the Summit with Russel Dunn, NOAA’s National Policy Advisor for Recreational Fisheries, leading the way as Summit organizer. Dunn made sure topics discussed focused on policies and programs that could be implemented under present law. Dunn said, “We ask that the focus of this Summit stay on what we can do under present Magnuson Stevens Act to improve opportunity and stability in saltwater recreational fishing.”
When Dunn finished his remarks William Shedd, president of the American Fishing Tackle Company (listed on the agenda as one of the keynote speakers), took the stage and said, “We ask your support of the Modern Fishing Act (new legislation) to enhance recreational fishing.”
Lucas Smith, a charter captain from Louisiana, said, “I thought the remark (by Mr. Shedd) was inappropriate. The focus of the meeting was made clear by Russell Dunn and then Mr. Shedd starts to push his political agenda.” No one else at the two day Summit, participant or speaker, mentioned new proposed legislation.
The Modern Fishing Act, mentioned by Mr. Shedd, along with other US House and Senate bills like it aim to weaken the Magnusson-Stevens Act, the fishing law of this nation. They weaken fishing law so more fish can be harvested for short term economic gain.
The proposed bills aim to make the use of Allowable Catch Limits (ACLs) discretionary. ACLs are the laws that have led to the rebuilding of forty-three fish stocks in this nation. These new bills in congress also add flexibility to the rebuilding timeline provision in MSA. The new bills would allow timelines to be extended when it is inconvenient to be conservative with harvest limits, putting the interests of a few to take more fish ahead of the interests of species that the timeline is trying to rebuild.
The aim of the Summit was to share information and perspectives within and across the country on innovative management alternatives and approaches, uses of electronic data collection and reporting, socioeconomics and conservation actions to improve opportunity and stability in saltwater recreational fisheries. The Summit also worked to identify opportunities for collaborative actions.
Fortunately after Mr. Shedd’s political comments the Summit was conducted in a constructive way by both speakers and participants.
Summit highlights focused in four areas including:
Innovative management alternatives and approaches discussed included better and more reliable catch and effort data via an improved Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) as well as electronic recording of catch and effort by recreational anglers on smart phones, iPads, tablets and computers. Encouraging pilot projects utilizing existing Exempted Fishery Permits (EFPs) to facilitate such projects was suggested to test innovation. EFPs are issued under the authority of MSA for situations where research activities would normally be prohibited by federal fishing regulations. An additional goal that came out of Summit workshop discussions was to have innovation collaboration foster trust between anglers and management.
Angler engagement in collaborative data collecting and electronic reporting of catch, effort and other data. Electronic reporting and better data was also the top recommendation coming out of the RI Saltwater Anglers Association sponsored Southern New England Recreational Fishing Symposium held in January. The hope at the National Summit last week was that with NOAA approved electronic data collection a more robust model would take some of the uncertainly out of recreational harvest limits allowing anglers to take more fish. Other benefits of electronic recording would include the develop of an electronic log book for captains to review to enhance future fishing, and report on what fish are being caught where for use when locating other ocean uses such as wind farms.
Making sure the data captured could be used in management was seen as very important. Recreational angler and charter captain Patrick Paquette of Hyannis, MA said, “The worse thing we could do is engage our fishing communities and not show them a benefit to recording catch and effort electronically.”
Dr. Luiz Barbieri, Marine Fisheries Research Program Leader from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, said, “MRIP is tracking a very complicated survey. Recording catch and then doing an effort survey is very difficult. We had statisticians, some of the best survey professionals from academia, take a look at what MRIP was doing and they validated the approach. It is a very complex survey model.”
Socioeconomics in recreational fisheries management was a main topic as well. Presenters outlined the impact of recreational fishing, noting that in many states it rivalled or surpassed the economic impact of commercial fishing. Many felt the regional councils were not using social and economic data in their decision making to the detriment of recreational fishing.
Participants suggested that the councils needed to be better job educating council members about the social and economic impacts of recreational fishing so they can start utilizing it more in decision making.
Expanding recreational fishing opportunity through conservation was another key Summit topic. Innovative approaches to enhancing habitat protection and restoration, the protection of forage fish, and reducing fish mortality rates were discussed. Presentations demonstrated enhancing fishing opportunity through conservation including the use of barotrauma reducing devices that reduce mortality rates of fish that are caught and released.
Another Summit highlight were presentations given by Secretary Wilbur Ross, Department of Commerce and by NOAA chief Rear Admiral, Timothy Gallaudet, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.
Wilbur Ross said, “This is the first time a Secretary of Commerce participated in a recreational fishing Summit, but I promise it will not be the last because recreational fishing is a priory of the Commerce Department. I personally have fished for bluefish and crabs along the Jersey shore and appreciate what recreational angling does for our county.”
Ross said “Fishing contributes about two percent of the entire GDP of this nation with saltwater recreational fishing contributing over 439,000 jobs.”
Ross continued to say his primary goal is to focus NOAA’s attention on the seafood trade deficit. “Ninety percent of the seafood we eat in America comes from foreign sources; most of it imported seafood from aquaculture. So we are going to try to fix this.” Ross and Assistant Secretary Gallaudet said the focus of NOAA will be to reverse and improve the fisheries trade deficit by increasing wild harvest as well as aquaculture in this country.
Director Coit announces tautog and black sea bass regulations
Last week Janet Coit, Director of the RI Department of Environmental Management, announced that the spring tautog season will open early this year on April 1 and close May 31 with a recreational possession limit of three (3) fish/person/day and a ten fish per vessel per day limit (which does not apply to charter boats). The season closes from June 1 to July 31 during tautog spawning season. It reopens with a three fish limit from August 1 to Octomer 14 then increases to a five (5) fish/person/day limit from October 15 to December 31. The minimum size for tautog is 16 inches.
The spring recreational black sea bass season has been eliminated due to a harvest limit reduction and to maintain a continuous fall and winter season. The summer black sea bass season will open July 3 and close August 31 with a three (3) fish/person/day limit. The limit increases to five fish/person/day on September 1 to December 31. The minimum size is 15 inches.
MA, RI, CT and NY are in the same management region this year and have appealed the recreational harvest limit established for the region. News on this appeal should be forthcoming in the next few weeks.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. . Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at email@example.com or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.