Report demands federal fishery management be modernized

Center for Coastal Conservation says current policies are draconian and harm recreational fishing.

BATON ROUGE — A marine conservation think tank hopes to get the jump on the next White House resident by encouraging him or her to shape a new set of federal policies benefiting fish stocks and recreational fishing.

A Center for Coastal Conservation report published in late October listed several recommendations for the next U.S. President and congressional class to do away with what the organization calls a set of “antiquated federal policies that have inhibited” the traditions of recreational fishing.

The report, called “A Vision for Marine Fisheries Management in the 21st Century: Priorities for a New Administration,” stated recreational fishing is a critical component of the American economy.

An estimated 11 million saltwater anglers contributed $70 billion annually in license and retail sales and generated 455,000 jobs, according to the report.

“Outdated federal management policies threaten to stem this positive economic trend,” a statement issued by the Center of Coastal Conservation about the report read.

Changes need to be made in how federal fisheries are managed, the report continued.

“The report recommends a shift away from using the same tools to manage commercial fishing and recreational fishing at the federal level,” the Center for Coastal Conservation staff said in a released statement. “New approaches should reflect the reality of demand for recreational access to our marine fishery resources, the current economic activity associated with that access, and the scientific data of the light footprint recreational access has on our fishery resources.”

Federal policy needs to distinguish between commercial and recreational fishing, according to one of the report’s recommendations.

“From a management perspective, the Magnuson-Stevens Act relies on fixed quotas that can be managed in real-time. This works for the commercial sector where relatively few vessels are focused on maximum sustainable yield,” the report stated. “However, recreational fisheries are enjoyed by millions of individuals with diverse goals. Some try to catch fish for food while others simply want to have fun catching and releasing fish and enjoying their time outdoors. Recreational anglers need wide-ranging, dependable access to healthy and abundant fisheries.”

The report added federal funding should be increased for “poorly maintained boat ramps and fishing piers, insufficiently dredged recreational ports and marinas, and neglected aids to navigation.”

“Unwarranted federal closures of public waters need to be avoided,” the report continued.

Marine reserves and other forms of total access closures should be a “measure of last resort” and implemented only after all other forms of fishery management and enforcement tools have been exhausted, the Center for Coastal Conservation stated in its report.

“A Vision for Marine Fisheries Management in the 21st Century” also recommended the Sport Fish Restoration Program be reauthorized and modernized and funding strategies for fish habitats should be a priority.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) should provide equal funding to commercial and recreational fishing projects, the report continued.

Freshwater anglers, according to the report, account for 40 million fishing licenses and $48 billion in generated retail sales.

Recreational anglers contributed $650 million in taxes and $657 million in fees, according to the Center for Coastal Conservation. Anglers also contribute more than $400 million annually to conservation and fishing organizations, the organization stated.

The complete 16-page report can be viewed online here.

(Photo courtesy NOAA)

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