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Entries in ASA (35)

Wednesday
Sep022015

Angling Advocates Pleased With New Everglades Management Plan

Unlike at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and, more recently, at Biscayne National Park,  federal officials actually listened to and cooperated with anglers in developing a new management plan for Everglades National Park.

“It’s hard not to recognize the clear contrast between the degree to which stakeholder input was considered for Everglades National Park’s GMP (General Management Plan) compared to that of Biscayne National Park, where the recreational fishing community was resoundingly ignored,” noted Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy director for the American Sportfishing Association .

“By recognizing that habitat conservation can be achieved while still allowing the public to get out on the water and enjoy our public places, Everglades National Park officials set a positive example that we hope other National Park Service (NPS) units will follow.”

The new plan  includes several changes that will affect recreational boating and fishing access and habitat conservation in the park.

“Covering much of the southern tip of mainland Florida and nearly all of Florida Bay, Everglades National Park is home to some of the best recreational fishing opportunities that Florida has to offer,” said Trip Aukeman, director of Advocacy for Coastal Conservation Association Florida.

“Given that this GMP will guide management actions for the next 20 to 30 years, it’s critically important that we get it right. Overall, we believe the GMP strikes an appropriate balance of management measures to safeguard resources while allowing for reasonable boating and fishing access.”

Everglades National Park officials have been working on the GMP update for several years. After serious concerns were raised over the draft GMP and the potential for reduced public access to the park’s waters, park officials worked closely with members of the recreational fishing and boating community to identify ways to better facilitate access while minimizing boating impacts to important habitat, namely seagrass. As a result of those discussions, many significant changes were made from the draft GMP to the final GMP.

“The recreational fishing community recognizes pole and troll zones are an important management tool to conserve shallow water habitat, but these zones must be established at a reasonable size and with access corridors to allow anglers to still reach the area,” Leonard. “In working with the recreational fishing community, Everglades National Park officials modified tens of thousands of acres of the park’s waters to better facilitate boating access, and included 29 new access corridors in the final GMP compared to the draft GMP. The level of responsiveness of Everglades National Park officials to our community’s input is reflective of how good public policy should be developed.”

One significant change that boaters in Everglades National Park will experience in the future is a mandatory boater education and boating permit system. Operators of motorboats and non-motorized boats, including paddled craft, must complete a mandatory education program to obtain a permit to operate vessels in the park.

“We are pleased to see a cooperatively developed plan that protects our natural resources as well boater access in a balanced manner,” said Nicole Vasilaros, vice president of Federal and Legal Affairs for the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “While we believe that boater education is best administered on the state level, we appreciate the collaborative work the Park has done to include stakeholders in this process and we agree that education is the best way to ensure a safe and fun day on the water."

These comments are starkly different than those that followed NPS's announcement of its plan for Biscayne, which eliminated fishing and severely restricted boating in more than 10,000 acres of the park's most popular and productive waters.

 “America’s  recreational fishing community is disheartened by the National Park Service’s decision to implement a marine reserve at Biscayne National Park,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “We understand the importance of protecting our natural resources and the delicate balance needed to ensure that anglers and boaters are able to enjoy these public waters. However, the National Park Service has shown little interest in compromise and today’s announcement confirms a lack of desire to include the needs of park users and stakeholders in important decisions such as this.”

Monday
Aug032015

Bill Introduced to Block NPS Plan to Restrict Access at Biscayne National Park

Following the National Park Service's (NPS) decision to close more than 10,000 acres of Biscayne National Park to fishing,  a bipartisan bill, H.R. 3310,  has been introduced in Congress to help stop this and similar unwarranted fishing closures from occurring.

Led by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), and 28 other original sponsors, the “Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act” requires the NPS and Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to have approval from state fish and wildlife agencies before closing state waters to recreational or commercial fishing.

“Probably the most concerning aspect of the Biscayne National Park marine reserve decision is the total disregard for the fisheries management expertise of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,” said Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy director for the American Sportfishing Association.

 “The states are responsible for nearly all of our nation’s saltwater fisheries management successes. This legislative safeguard will prevent the federal government from ignoring the fisheries management expertise of the states in these types of situations.”

Throughout the development of the General Management Plan for Biscayne National Park, through which the marine reserve is being implemented, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has provided detailed recommendations to improve the condition of the fisheries resources in the park. The Commission has continually insisted that the proposed marine reserve is overly restrictive to the public and will not be biologically effective.

 It also argues that less restrictive management tools can rebuild the park’s fisheries resources and conserve habitat.

The recreational fishing and boating community has echoed these concerns, but nevertheless the National Park Service ultimately elected to close nearly 40 percent of the park’s reef tract to fishing.

“The Congressional leaders who are sponsoring this bill are to be commended for this common sense approach to protect saltwater anglers from unwarranted access restrictions,” said Chris Horton, Fisheries Program director for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “The Biscayne National Park marine reserve is part of a concerning trend of closing marine areas without scientific basis or an understanding of the critical role anglers play in the economy and in funding conservation.”

“Marine reserves are a tool in the fisheries management toolbox, but too often we see them promoted with questionable-at-best motivations,” said Jeff Miller, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association Florida’s Government Relations Committee. “This bill will ensure that Florida has a say in important fisheries management decisions in Biscayne National Park, including marine reserves, and that similar issues don’t arise in other parts of the state and country.”

Today the  House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Small Business will hold a joint hearing to explore the potential implications of lost access due to the Biscayne marine reserve.

Wednesday
Jul082015

California Could Ban Lead, Zinc, Copper Fishing Tackle

Unless public outcry forces a reversal by the California Department of Toxic Substances (CDTS),  the state is moving ahead with regulations that could ban fishing gear that contains lead, zinc, and copper. This follows quickly after the recent announcement that lead ammunition will not be allowed on state property and for all bighorn sheep hunting.

“It appears that politics, rather than science, was the basis for CDTS’s decision. While there are many sources of pollution that pose a serious threat to California’s ocean and streams, anglers are not among them,” said David Dickerson, president of the California Sportfishing League (CSL), which is spearheading opposition to the potential ban.

An environmental attorney and former CDTS director added that sellers and retailers of fishing tackle likely will be subjected to costly and onerous regulations, as well as potential fines.

“The result could be a wide range of enforcement options requiring restrictions or bans on sale, product reformulation, additional environmental impact studies, development of disposal programs, or funding for fundamental research and development,” said Maureen Gorsen. “The bottom line is that the cost of manufacturing fishing gear will increase significantly and these costs will be passed on to consumers.”

CDTS’s intentions were revealed in its draft of a Priority Product Work Plan for the Green Chemistry Initiative, which identifies seven product types, including fishing gear, for regulation and/or ban. Legislation authorizing the initiative was passed in 2008, but implementation was delayed for more than five years because of complexity and the potential for massive costs to small businesses, according to John Kabateck, California executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

“Green Chemistry is yet another example of Sacramento pursuing its agenda of environmental extremism without any concern for costs to consumers or California’s economic future,” he wrote in the Sacramento Business Journal in 2013.

 “The department has issued a broad proposal that will enable it to regulate the manufacturing and distribution of any product it chooses that could impose unworkable burdens on tens of thousands of small businesses in the state.”

And CDTS is doing so with fishing tackle even though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2010 that lead gear does not pose an unreasonable risk to wildlife.  Also, a recently passed budget bill contains a provision to prohibit the use of federal dollars to ban lead fishing tackle.

In public hearings, the department admitted that it has no scientific studies to show that lead poses an environmental problem in California, added Dickerson. “State regulators failed to comply with state law that requires them to conduct an independent analysis before including any product in this regulatory process,” he said.

The CSL president predicted that additional regulations will encourage businesses to flee California to more business friendly states. “Furthermore, when fishing is no longer an accessible and affordable source of recreation for millions of anglers, it will have a substantial impact on California’s economy and jobs.”

A recent CSL study revealed that fishing license sales have dropped more than 55 percent since 1980, with the state ranking last nationally in fishing participation by percentage of its population.

“The high cost of fishing licenses and unwarranted limits on fishing have contributed to a significant decline in participation,” Dickerson said. “Increasing the cost of gear and potential bans will only accelerate the decline, and threaten California jobs that are dependent on outdoor recreation and tourism.”

In addition to CSL, others lobbying for delisting of fishing gear include the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Travel Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, the California Parks Hospitality Association, the California Association for Recreational Fishing, the American Sportfishing Association,  and Coastside Fishing Club.

Anglers who want to voice their opposition to a lead ban can sign at petition on CSL’s website.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

 

Monday
Jun082015

Feds Ban Fishing, Restrict Boating in Biscayne National Park

Not surprisingly, the National Park Service (NPS) has just announced that it intends to eliminate sport fishing and severely restrict boating in more than 10,000 acres of Biscayne National Park, as a part of its General Management Plan. 

“Today’s announcement confirms that Biscayne National Park officials never had any real interest in working with stakeholders or the state of Florida to explore compromise plans,” said Mike Leonard, ocean resource policy director for the American Sportfishing Association.

 “The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, one of the nation’s leading fisheries management agencies, has stated that a marine reserve is far too restrictive, and that other management measures can achieve resource goals while still allowing for public access. The only conclusion that one can draw from this decision is that the public is simply not welcome at Biscayne National Park.”

The move is not surprising because the NPS did much the same thing at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area about five years ago. Extensive areas were closed to the public, with off-road vehicle access severely limited at one of the premier surf fishing locations on the East Coast.

It’s long past time to wake up to the fact that the NPS is not a friend to anglers specificially and outdoor recreationists in general. A Washington, D.C. insider once told Activist Angler that the anonymous bureaucrats in that agency have no regard for fishermen and would like nothing better than to restrict public access in our national parks to auto tours.

Go here to sign a petition opposing the Biscayne fishing ban.

“America’s  recreational fishing community is disheartened by the National Park Service’s decision to implement a marine reserve at Biscayne National Park,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation.

 “We understand the importance of protecting our natural resources and the delicate balance needed to ensure that anglers and boaters are able to enjoy these public waters. However, the National Park Service has shown little interest in compromise and today’s announcement confirms a lack of desire to include the needs of park users and stakeholders in important decisions such as this.”

For the past several years, a large coalition of partners in the recreational boating and fishing community has submitted comments, attended public meetings and organized discussions with the leadership at the National Park Service in an attempt to balance the critical need for conservation with the need for recreational access to the park’s waters. Numerous fisheries management measures were presented to the National Park Service that would balance resource conservation with maintaining public access, including size limits, bag limits, quotas, permits, seasonal closures and gear restrictions.

“Anglers recognize that the condition of the fisheries resources in Biscayne National Park needs to be addressed, but we also know that once an area is closed, the public will never be allowed back in,” said Jeff Miller, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association Florida’s Government Relations Committee.

 “These decisions should happen only when clearly supported by science, and when all other management options have failed. By not giving other, less restrictive options a chance, the National Park Service has put Florida’s reputation as ‘Fishing Capital of the World’ at stake.”

To read the most recent public comments submitted by the recreational boating and fishing community to the National Park Service on this issue, click here.  

Monday
May252015

Lead Ban Would Be Bad News for Anglers, Economy in California

 

Click on the photo for more information and to sign a petition against a ban on lead fishing tackle.

As California considers prohibiting fishing tackle that contains lead, zinc, and copper, a report by the California Coastal Conservation Association and the American Sportfishing Association  (ASA) reveals that banning traditional fishing tackle will diminish participation, which generates millions of dollars for fisheries conservation in the state.

 “While California ranks fifth in the nation in number of anglers, we are dead last in terms of per capita participation,” said Bill Shedd, chairman of the California Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association and President of AFTCO.

 “However, sportfishing is an important economic generator for our state, and banning lead tackle, as currently being considered by the state of California, is another burden that would increase the cost of fishing, hurt anglers and cost our economy millions of dollars in lost revenue and almost 2,600 jobs.”

Findings from surveys conducted of anglers and manufacturers by South Associates include the following:

  • A ban on lead fishing tackle would likely reduce angler activity in California, which would in turn negatively impact the recreational fishing industry and those whose livelihoods depend on it.
  • A survey of tackle manufacturers indicated that the price impact of producing lures, flies and terminal tackle with lead substitutes would double costs on average.
  • Only 25 percent of manufacturers surveyed indicated that it was even technically feasible to currently switch to non-lead substitutes.
  • If a lead ban were to cause prices to double for lures, flies and terminal tackle, the report says that approximately 5 percent of anglers would leave the sport or nearly 80,000 anglers.
  • The surveys used in the report also suggest that anglers who continue to fish, 18 percent would fish fewer days, each fishing 21 percent fewer days on average.
  • Combined with anglers leaving the sport, this would reduce total California angler days and expenditures in recreational fishing by two million fewer angler days, and $173 million in lost revenues.
  • The $173 million in recreational fishing revenues currently supports 2,582 jobs, $113.6 million in salaries and wages, $24.2 million in state and local tax revenue, and $26.4 million in federal tax revenues.

“This report shows that, in addition to the direct economic losses to recreational fishing-dependent businesses, fish and wildlife conservation programs in California would suffer as prices for tackle increase and overall fishing expenditures suffer,” said Scott Gudes, ASA’s vice president for Government Affairs.

“ Not many people realize that it is anglers who pay for California’s fishery conservation programs through fishing tackle excise taxes and license fees. A ban on lead tackle is not based on science. Anglers and conservation programs would be the losers.”

For more information about this and to sign a petition against a ban, visit the California Sportfishing League.