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April 16, 2013

Improved National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan Still Leaves Room for Concern

Sportfishing industry wants to see public access to recreation, such as fishing and boating, made a plan priority

Alexandria, VA – April 16, 2013 - The sportfishing industry supports the improvements in the administration’s final Implementation Plan for its National Ocean Policy (NOP) but still has concerns that the social, economic, public health and conservation benefits of recreational uses of our nation’s public resources did not receive the priority consideration that it deserves.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA), which represents the sportfishing industry and the broader sportfishing community, supports the plan’s acknowledgment of the need to avoid closing off public recreational access. The plan also highlights the millions of dollars paid annually by recreational anglers in the form of excise taxes on fishing gear and state fishing license fees that go to funding management of marine resources.

“In the “plus” column, the industry is pleased to see the heightened emphasis on the role of state agencies in any kind of marine planning connected to the National Ocean Policy and the explicit statement that regions choosing to opt out of NOP-directed marine planning can do so,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman.

ASA is disappointed that the NOP failed to include a broader and more pronounced acknowledgment of the need to designate public access to fishing, boating and other recreational activities as priority uses, consistent with the administration’s “America’s Great Outdoors” initiative.

Nussman further said, “We welcome the plan’s emphasis on better science and data. ASA will continue to press for more pronounced prioritization of fishery data as well as socio-economic data that more clearly reflects who is tapping our ocean resources, their actual impacts on the resources and the economic engines they are fueling.”

Many of the nation’s 13 million saltwater anglers have witnessed a disturbing trend toward reducing access to marine recreational fishing opportunities in recent years and the Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning aspect of NOP has struck many in the sportfishing industry as a potential means for unjustified closures and limitations. The Implementation Plan does not totally dispel those concerns.

Language in the document referring to “ecologically important” areas for “focused protection” in the National Marine Sanctuary system actually points back to the anxiety the original NOP policy documents caused. But language in the document regarding pilot projects, the role of state agencies and other directives mark a move in a more sensible direction.

“Since the establishment of the NOP in 2010, ASA has continuously expressed concerns about how recreational access will be treated in the proposed marine planning. We want to ensure that the nation’s public resources remain open for American families to experience recreational pursuits, such as fishing and boating, consistent with safety and conservation goals,” said Nussman.

Nussman concluded, “Credit is due to the administration for improving significantly on past NOP policy documents and we appreciate the fact that they have been listening to us and other recreational fishing and boating groups. The increased emphasis on logical steps to improve government efficiency and agency coordination is welcome as is the de-emphasis on federally driven marine planning.”

 

– Source: American Sportfishing Association