NOAA releases implementation plan for national saltwater fishing policy

Parimal M. Rohit

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Regulating recreational fishing in saltwater venues across the country could become significantly streamlined within the next three years as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an implementation plan for its nationwide fisheries policy this month.

NOAA announced a national saltwater fishing policy at this year’s Progressive Insurance Miami Boat Show, with NOAA Fisheries Administrator Eileen Sobeck stating it would impact the country’s estimated 11 million recreational saltwater anglers.

“In February 2015, we established a formal National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy, which sets forth goals and guiding principles for our activities to ensure that saltwater recreational fisheries issues are fully considered in our deliberations,” Sobeck said. “This implementation plan is NOAA Fisheries’ first step under the policy, making recreational fisheries a key focus of agency action. The implementation plan will serve as a basic roadmap for agency action on recreational fisheries at the national level through 2018. It should be considered a living document, able to accommodate new challenges and opportunities as they arise.”

At the Miami Boat Show, Sobeck issued a statement claiming dropping fuel prices and recovering fish populations would result in increased recreational fishing across the country. Sobeck stated a national policy is necessary to maintain the interests of recreational anglers and sustain natural resources.

The fishing policy and implementation plan would be guided by NOAA’s six guiding principles: ecosystem conservation; foster public access to quality recreational fishing opportunities; cooperation of state and federal management entities; develop innovative solutions to address evolving science, management and environmental challenges; provide scientifically sound social, cultural, economic and ecological information; and, communicate and engage with the fishing public.

NOAA’s 12-page implementation plan outlined specific details of how the government agency would utilize each of its guiding principles to realize a streamlined national saltwater fishing policy balancing the interests of anglers with long-term sustainability.

According to the implementation plan, NOAA would, starting in 2017, provide biennial status reports of the policy and implementation plan. The agency also plans to develop region-specific recreational implementation plans, guided by the national policy, beginning in 2016.

The NOAA stated its goal with the national policy is to support and maintain sustainable saltwater recreational fisheries resources, promote saltwater recreational fishing as a social, cultural and economic benefit, and use science-based conservation and management to enable long-term participation.

When the NOAA announced its policy, it cited a 2012 internal report claiming recreational fishing supports 381,000 jobs and generates $58 billion in annual sales impacts.

The implementation plan is available here.

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