In what now seems a never-ending struggle to ensure the future of recreational fishing, anglers have won another small victory. The Obama Administration is including it as an allowable activity in the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, approximately 150 miles off the Massachusetts coast.
For years, sports fishing advocates have campaigned to convince politicians and unelected bureaucrats that recreational fishing should not be considered synonymous with commercial fishing in terms of government policy. And too often that message has fallen on deaf ears, especially with the formation of Obama's National Ocean Council, with the purpose of "zoning" uses of public waters.
"For decades, recreational fishermen have generally been an afterthought in ocean resource management," said Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy Director for the American Sportfishing Association.
"And when recreational fishing has received attention by mangers and policymakers, it’s usually lumped in with other 'extractive' activities like mining, drilling and commercial fishing.
"Anglers are leading conservationists and fully support reasonable regulations to conserve the environment. But we also don’t want to see bad public policy that bans recreational fishing unnecessarily."
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument covers a 4,913 square mile area off the Massachusetts coast that contains deep sea corals and other unique and fragile marine habitats. These areas are also popular offshore fishing spots for anglers who target billfish, tuna and mahi mahi near the ocean surface.
During the marine monument designation discussions, the recreational fishing and boating community advocated that recreational fishing should be allowed to continue because, among other reasons, the type of recreational fishing that occurred in these areas has no interaction with the bottom habitats that are being protected.
“Summarily removing the public from public waters is not the way to properly manage our oceans, and it is encouraging that this Administration recognized how critical it is for conservationists to be connected to the environment they work to protect,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association.
“Recreational fishing and marine conservation are not only compatible, but complimentary, and we are glad to see that angling will continue to be managed as a sustainable activity in these areas.”
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is the third marine monument created or expanded by President Obama. The previous two decisions, which designated areas near Hawaii and remote Pacific islands, also allowed for recreational fishing.