26 Con­ser­va­tion

Mov­ing For­ward RIP CUNNINGHAM

Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - By Rip Cunningham

To those of us who had looked at the out­put from those data-col­lec­tion ef­forts, it was no sur­prise that the Marine Re­cre­ational Fish­eries Statis­tics Sur­vey (MRFSS) was not a good process. It was never de­signed as a way to get man­age­ment-level in­for­ma­tion but, be­cause of ne­ces­sity, it was be­ing used for that pur­pose.

We al­ways like to beat up “the gov­ern­ment” for what we per­ceive to be un­ac­cept­able per­for­mance and, let’s face it, it is a big tar­get. Cer­tainly, its re­sponse to the dec­la­ra­tion by the Na­tional Academy of Sciences of MRFSS be­ing flawed was laud­able, but many of us have been crit­i­cal of the time taken to get the new Marine Re­cre­ational In­for­ma­tion Pro­gram (MRIP) up and func­tional. I’d like to say that I know enough about statis­tics and sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis that it could have been done in a much shorter time, but I do not. For cer­tain, I am aware that NOAA Fish­eries took the time to get it right, and that re­quired a lot of as­sump­tions to be tested and a lot of pi­lot pro­grams to be rolled out and an­a­lyzed. That takes time.

Get It Right

Over the years, I have had dis­cus­sions with those who have worked on this pro­gram, and they had one over­rid­ing con­cern: They ab­so­lutely had to get it right this time or re­cre­ational users would never be­lieve the re­sults. There are likely more than a few who’ll never be­lieve the re­sults any­way, but I di­gress.

This past win­ter, NAS an­nounced the re­sults of its anal­y­sis of the new MRIP data-col­lec­tion sys­tem: “MRIP has made sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion through re­designed sur­veys, strength­en­ing the qual­ity of data. Although many of the ma­jor rec­om­men­da­tions from the 2006 re­port were ad­dressed, some chal­lenges re­main, such as in­cor­po­rat­ing tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances for data col­lec­tion and en­hanc­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion with an­glers and some other stake­hold­ers.”

As we move for­ward, bet­ter re­cre­ational catch data will im­pact a num­ber of stock as­sess­ments that are im­por­tant to the re­cre­ational fish­ing in­dus­try. Some of the as­sess­ment changes may be good news (more fish than pre­vi­ously thought), and some may be bad news

It has been ap­prox­i­mately 10 years since the Na­tional Academy of Sciences de­clared that the NOAA Fish­eries data-col­lec­tion sys­tem had some se­ri­ous prob­lems.

Mov­ing For­ward

(less fish). From my stand­point, get­ting bet­ter in­for­ma­tion is al­ways a pos­i­tive and will help with man­ag­ing our fish­eries re­sources at sus­tain­able lev­els. My hope is that tin­ker­ing with the process will be an on­go­ing ef­fort that al­ways strives for that elu­sive per­fec­tion.

While this data-col­lec­tion im­prove­ment is “big league,” or “bigly” as some say, and im­por­tant to the re­cre­ational fish­ing in­dus­try, there is a lesser-known event hap­pen­ing that I think is even more im­por­tant.

Fol­low the Money

Over the years, this col­umn has harped on the need for real eco­nomic data on the im­pact of the re­cre­ational fish­ing in­dus­try to the over­all gross do­mes­tic prod­uct. Too of­ten those in de­ci­sion-mak­ing po­si­tions think of re­cre­ational fish­ing as a lot of folks out hav­ing a good time. Well, they are par­tially right. But the rest of the story is that there are bil­lions and bil­lions of dol­lars of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity as­so­ci­ated with that fun. And that eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and the em­ploy­ment it pro­vides need to be rec­og­nized.

As Pres­i­dent Obama left of­fice, he signed the Out­door Recre­ation Jobs and Eco­nomic Im­pact Act of 2016, or the Out­door REC Act. This leg­is­la­tion re­quires the Depart­ment of Com­merce, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Depart­ment of the In­te­rior and the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, to as­sess and an­a­lyze the eco­nomic and em­ploy­ment con­tri­bu­tions of the out­door recre­ation in­dus­try, in­clud­ing re­cre­ational fish­ing, to the United States econ­omy.

Game Change

Amer­i­can Sport­fish­ing As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent and CEO Mike Nuss­man praised the ef­fort. “We have ad­vo­cated for years that re­cre­ational fish­ing and boat­ing were sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic driv­ers. It’s grat­i­fy­ing that the House and the Se­nate, in a bi­par­ti­san ef­fort, passed this bill, which the pres­i­dent has now signed into law.”

The en­act­ment of the Out­door REC Act will en­sure that the out­door in­dus­try, with its $646 bil­lion in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and ap­prox­i­mately 6 mil­lion jobs, many of which are in ru­ral ar­eas with rel­a­tively high un­em­ploy­ment, gets of­fi­cial recog­ni­tion. It will mean that de­ci­sion-mak­ers can­not sim­ply ig­nore of­fi­cial eco­nom­ics data. It is prob­a­bly too much to hope for, but it may also mean that some level of eco­nom­ics gets lay­ered into the al­lo­ca­tion process for our fin­fish re­sources. That would be a game changer.

Each of these ac­tions in­di­vid­u­ally is an im­por­tant step for­ward for the re­cre­ational fish­ing in­dus­try and for all those who fish recre­ation­ally. Both of these work­ing in con­cert change the par­a­digm all to­gether. They have the po­ten­tial to make sure that re­cre­ational an­glers are no longer treated as sim­ply a bunch of folks who play with their food. You are the out­door en­thu­si­asts who sus­tain­ably uti­lize a re­source and gen­er­ate sub­stan­tial eco­nomic ben­e­fit from it.

CASH FLOW: An­glers con­trib­ute bil­lions to the na­tion’s econ­omy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.