After years of being ignored in Washington, saltwater recreational anglers are hoping for a breath of fresh air with the Trump Administration. It’s not hard to imagine that President Trump would be a friend to our community. After all, he has made clear that he values spending time with his family and has an obvious interest in a strong national economy fueled by Americans. His sons, Eric and Donald Jr., are both avid anglers and hunters.
That’s good news for sport fishermen and their families who take part in one of America’s oldest and most beloved past times – and spend a lot of money doing it! Sadly, though, there is a long-standing history between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and recreational fishermen that leaves anglers wanting – needing – more. More access. More acknowledgement. More input.
The economic impact of America’s 11 million saltwater recreational anglers should make any president proud. Recreational anglers make a combined economic contribution of $70 billion annually and support more than 450,000 American jobs. Why would an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce – focused on jobs and growth – not pay more attention to the recreational fishing sector which creates the most jobs with the lightest footprint?
To NOAA Fisheries in the Obama Administration, saltwater recreational fishing largely remained an afterthought to the commercial fishing sector. And although the agency has announced the creation of recreational fisheries policies in recent years, the rubber has yet to meet the road. Joe Sportfisherman at the docks has not seen positive results. Fundamental change is needed. The Trump Administration has a major role to play in the future of recreational fishing, and it starts with agency leadership.
President Trump has an opportunity for a course correction with his pick for NOAA’s Assistant Administrator for Fisheries. The recreational fishing community hopes to see leaders who understand that the commercial and recreational fishing industries are fundamentally different and should be managed differently. We need change, and that change comes by bringing someone in with an outside perspective.
The folks who understand recreational fishing the most are state fisheries managers from the areas of the country with significant recreational and commercial components, such as the Southeast. In those areas, the state agencies have found a way to balance the interests of both sectors. They strive to manage for a high level of access for the public and for the health of the natural resources they steward. And they do that job extraordinarily well. Those coastal states have a strong familiarity with the federal fisheries management system and can bring proven ideas from their states to solve federal problems. The knowledge they would bring to Washington is backed by the deep respect of anglers from coast to coast.
Recreational anglers should stay tuned to see if President Trump turns federal fisheries management back over to the people.
Jeff Angers, President
Center for Sportfishing Policy
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and don’t necessarily represent the position of Sport Fishing.