Recreational anglers want national law to reflect their needs
“We had a great discussion about the Magnuson-Steven Act (MSA), the fishing law of this nation, and how to make it work better for recreational fishing. Our aim now is to process symposium input and develop recommendations we can share with U.S. congressional delegations in Southern New England,” said Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA).
The MSA will likely go before Congress for reauthorization this year. Several House and Senate bills have been sponsored over the past three years. Medeiros opened the 2018 Southern New England Recreational Fishing Symposium held Friday, Jan. 26 at the Crowned Plaza Hotel in Warwick. Recreational fishing community leaders from thirty member clubs and organizations attended the day-long seminar along with conservation groups, political leaders and fish managers from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
It there was a common thread at Friday’s symposium it was that all participants wanted our national fishing laws to work better for recreational fishing. There was consensus on a lot of issues and progress was made on understanding the sticking point of ‘flexibility’.
“Adding flexibility to the fishing bill in the Senate is not something we are adamant about,” said Chris Macaluso, director for the Center for Marine Fisheries for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP). The comment was welcomed by fish conservationists who have been advocating to keep ‘flexibility’ out of our national fishing law by keeping firm allocable catch limits (ACL‘s) in place and keeping rebuilding time lines in place rather than adding ‘flexibility’ to these provisions. Some feel that ‘flexibility’ has led to overfishing in the past but when the law put firm catch limits and rebuilding timelines in place over 40 fish stocks were rebuilt.
However, like all legislation, the devil is in the details and how widespread keeping ‘flexibility’ out of the law remains to be seen but anglers were excited about a possible compromise on the issue.
“Recreational fishing in Rhode Island is a vital part of our economy and quality of life, and is a lot of fun,” said Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit. She and a half dozen of her staff attended the symposium. “The ease of access and reputation for good fishing lures both residents and tourists to our shores every year. The MSA has helped to fortify our fisheries by mandating a better understanding of our marine resources, rebuilding depleted fish stocks, and holding fishermen accountable for their catch. We look forward to working with RISAA and Rhode Island’s congressional delegation to ensure that our federal laws support recreational fishing as we pursue sustainable management of our incredible marine resources.”
According to NOAA, recreational fishing in Rhode Island and Massachusetts has an economic impact that surpasses commercial fishing. Commercial fishers provide a nutritious food source for people who have no access to fish, however, both recreational and commercial fishing are important to our economy.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act governs both commercial and recreational fishing in federal waters. However, it was originally written for commercial fishing and adapting it to recreational fishing has been a challenge. “When the law was originally written recreational fishing did not occur often in federal waters but took place mostly in state waters. Since the law was written focusing on commercial fishing, it does need to better reflect the needs of recreational fishing today,” said Dennis Nixon, symposium panel moderator, Professor of Marine Affairs at URI and Director of the Rhode Island Sea Grant Program.
“Commercial fishing is about catching pounds of fish to bring to market and all the stock estimates, fishing quotas and catch limits are in pounds of fish. However, recreational fishing is experiential… research shows recreational fishing is as much about being outdoors with nature, spending time with family and friends as it is about catching fish,” said Rich Hittinger, RISAA 1st vice president and conference director. “Recreational fishing regulations and management needs to reflect this experiential difference with things like consistent regulations, greater access to the fish and growing fish to abundance.”
“We plan on documenting and prioritizing symposium input and developing MSA and recreational fishing recommendations for Southern New England’s U.S. Senate and House members,” said Medeiros.
Where’s the bite?
Cod fishing was on and off this week. Sunday and Monday produced spectacular results. Capt. Andy Dangelo of the Seven B’s party boat said, “It took us a bit to find the fish (Sunday and Monday) but once we did it was game on. Full boat limit for a light crowd in less than two hours and the quality of the fish was unreal. Jigs out produced bait and doubleheaders were commonplace. Numerous fish in the 15-20 pound range with the biggest around 25. However the fishing dropped off later in the week.” The Frances Fleet and the Island Current reported similar experiences. Good fishing early in the week with a slowdown in the later part of the week. However even when the bite was slow large among of bait and cod were on the fishing grounds — it was just that they were not hungry.
Freshwater fishing is expected to pick up this week from shore and boat as ice has melted and anglers can gain access to the fish from shore or a boat. Anglers will be targeting many species but keeping an eye on trout in the ponds that have been restocked for winter fishing.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. Visit Captain Dave’s No Fluke website at noflukefishing.com or e-mail him with your fishing news and photos at firstname.lastname@example.org.