In April, NOAA Fisheries announced plans to develop a national recreational fishing policy. Earlier this month, the federal fisheries arm of the Department of Commerce began taking that recreational fishing policy from door to door to solicit input and opinion from recreational fishermen and fisheries managers across the country.
The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) today commended NOAA Fisheries for coordinating this effort, and particularly for scheduling meetings with stakeholders outside of the Washington DC area.
“One problem in the past was that NOAA Fisheries would hold invitation only meetings in the Washington DC area, but the saltwater anglers and marine business owners are going to their state and regional council meetings to express concerns, and that’s where these types of sessions should be held,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “Kudos to NOAA for coming out into the public arena for public input, and especially for being able to face angler frustration head-on.”
The first in a series of Public Town Hall meetings was held on June 9th in Ponte Verde, FL at a meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, a second one last week in Freehold, NJ at the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting. NOAA Fisheries staff is distributing a national saltwater recreational fisheries policy discussion guide, as well as a one-pager that explains the overall concept.
“NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency responsible for the stewardship of our ocean and coastal resources, is asking for your help in developing an Agency-wide saltwater recreational fisheries policy,” the agency describes online. “We are creating this policy to institutionalize within NOAA the key tenets of recreational fishing. The policy will be a thoughtful set of principles to guide agency actions and decisions over the long-term.”
RFA’s managing director, Jim Hutchinson, attended last week’s town hall gathering and encouraged anglers and business owners to consider attending. “There are some constructive components of this policy draft, and there are also a lot of folks chiming in on things that many anglers might not want to see included, so this is good opportunity for our sector.”
Hutchinson said the term “recreational fishing” for one is being discussed, with NOAA Fisheries having learned from one stakeholder group that ‘expense fishing’ should be included in the final policy. “Expense fishing where people sell their fish to market to pay for their recreational expenses should not be a part of the recreational fishing definition,” Hutchinson said. “Any fish caught for sale must be counted against the commercial sector’s quota, so that’s not something that should be part of an angler definition.”
“RFA is appreciative of NOAA’s efforts to come out to the public and hear first-hand about the flawed data collection especially and how it’s impacting the recreational fishing culture,” Hutchinson said. “RFA is also happy because by actively establishing this national policy for recreational fishing, it should be one less principle to worry about in terms of reforming the Magnuson Stevens Act.
“RFA will be submitting input to NOAA Fisheries regarding the policy, and we urge anglers to participate in the process as well,” added Donofrio.