“This is a major step in the right direction,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “For the first time, NOAA Fisheries officially acknowledges the inherent differences between recreational and commercial fisheries -- and the need to manage the sectors differently.
“The rubber will meet the road in implementation, but this is a good roadmap,” he added.
“This policy represents a milestone in NOAA Fisheries’ relationship with the recreational fishing community,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman. “While the sportfishing industry and the recreational fishing community have been frustrated with saltwater fisheries management in federal waters, much of it is attributable to the lack of clear guidance within NOAA Fisheries for how to properly manage and consider recreational fishing's interests.
“This new policy sets forth a path for how the agency will elevate recreational fishing in a way that benefits both fisheries resources and public access to them.”
The policy identifies goals and guiding principles related to recreational fishing to be integrated -- top-down -- into NOAA Fisheries planning, budgeting, decision-making, and activities. The goals of the policy include the following:
1) support and maintain sustainable saltwater recreational fisheries resources, including healthy marine and estuarine habitats
2) promote saltwater recreational fishing for the social, cultural, and economic benefit of the nation; and,
3) enable enduring participation in, and enjoyment of, saltwater recreational fisheries through science-based conservation and management.
Recreational anglers and boaters identified their primary priorities in the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management’s report “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.”
The Commission, headed by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats President Scott Deal, highlighted six key policies that would achieve the Commission’s vision. Establishment of a national policy for recreational saltwater fishing was its No. 1 recommendation. Other key elements include adoption of a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management; allocation of marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation, and creation of reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines.