/ Con­ser­va­tion Mak­ing Progress


Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - RIP CUN­NING­HAM

Ear­lier this year a lot of fishing folks gath­ered near Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to work on is­sues that are valu­able to the recre­ational fishing in­dus­try and to you, the par­tic­i­pants in salt­wa­ter fish­eries.

More im­por­tantly, there was dis­cus­sion on how to make sure that our marine re­sources are sus­tain­ably man­aged and re­main ac­ces­si­ble to us now and in the fu­ture.

This is the third in a se­ries of recre­ational fishing sum­mits or­ga­nized by NOAA Fish­eries and the At­lantic States Marine Fish­eries Com­mis­sion and was themed “Im­prov­ing Op­por­tu­nity and Sta­bil­ity in Salt­wa­ter Recre­ational Fish­eries.” Pre­vi­ous sum­mits were held in 2010 and 2014. This one cov­ered four main top­ics: in­no­va­tive man­age­ment al­ter­na­tives and ap­proaches; so­cioe­co­nomics in recre­ational fish­eries man­age­ment; an­gler en­gage­ment in col­lab­o­ra­tive data col­lec­tion and re­port­ing; and ex­pand­ing recre­ational fishing op­por­tu­nity through con­ser­va­tion.

To many of you, this may all sound like a bunch of bu­reau­cratic jar­gon, and I get that. You are in­ter­ested in more fish in the wa­ter and more op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with them. When you peel back a cou­ple of lay­ers of the fish­eries lan­guage onion, that is ex­actly what most folks want. Which road you take to get there is where a lot of the dis­cus­sion fo­cuses.

If we look back at the out­comes from the pre­vi­ous sum­mits, there is rea­son to be op­ti­mistic. At the first sum­mit in 2010, the par­tic­i­pants crafted a list of rec­om­mended changes and im­prove­ments for NOAA Fish­eries to im­ple­ment. Of that list, 90 per­cent has been com­pleted. Dur­ing the 2014 sum­mit, ad­di­tional rec­om­men­da­tions were pre­sented to NOAA Fish­eries, and 80 per­cent have been com­pleted to date. More to come.

Even if noth­ing else is done, and I do not be­lieve that will hap­pen, the recre­ational fishing com­mu­nity is way ahead of where it was a mere 10 years ago. Dur­ing the first sum­mit, the head of NOAA Fish­eries would say a few words at the be­gin­ning and leave. With each new sum­mit, a few more im­por­tant Wash­ing­ton folks would briefly show up. This year, the head of NOAA Fish­eries, Chris Oliver, was there for the en­tire meet­ing. His boss, Ti­mothy Gal­laudet, the head of NOAA, was there twice. The Sec­re­tary of Com­merce, Wil­bur Ross, came and spoke to the sum­mit par­tic­i­pants. This event at­tracted all the right at­ten­tion, and in D.C., that is the coin of the realm.

Of the four ma­jor top­ics dis­cussed, I am go­ing to fo­cus on the first three, since I be­lieve the recre­ational in­dus­try has al­ready made good con­tin­ued

strides in the fourth and will con­tinue to do so. It has been ob­vi­ous to most that man­ag­ing recre­ational fish­eries is sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent from com­mer­cial fish­eries, yet they tend to be viewed through the same man­age­ment lens. Yes, both need sus­tain­ably man­aged re­sources, but the real­ity is that recre­ational users need high re­source abun­dance to be suc­cess­ful, be­cause we use the least ef­fi­cient gear. Per­haps al­ter­na­tive man­age­ment phi­los­o­phy is the best de­scrip­tion. How can man­agers smooth out the rad­i­cal swings in sea­sonal quo­tas? How do we take ad­van­tage of peak stock abun­dance? How should catch-and-re­lease fish­eries be man­aged where fish pur­posely left in the wa­ter should not be con­sid­ered un­used quota and then sus­cep­ti­ble to trans­fer? Can mul­ti­year or mixed-stock quo­tas help? All of these were dis­cussed and need to be con­sid­ered.

Con­sid­er­a­tion of so­cioe­co­nomics in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process is not new, but us­ing it when mak­ing man­age­ment de­ci­sions about recre­ation­ally im­por­tant species is less preva­lent. I have heard man­agers ex­press con­cern that if the per-pound value of fish was the main cri­te­ria for al­lo­ca­tion, then the recre­ational com­mu­nity would get all the fish. Well, I’m play­ing the BS card. First, that is not some­thing that will hap­pen, but the law re­quires man­agers to max­i­mize the value to the na­tion. We have the so­cioe­co­nomic data; use it to make fair de­ci­sions. I have said it be­fore, but so­cioe­co­nomics should be a manda­tory part of al­lo­ca­tion de­ci­sions.

One of the con­stant themes dur­ing the sum­mit was the need for bet­ter catch and ef­fort data for the recre­ational users. Prob­a­bly the area of great­est dis­trust of fish­eries man­agers con­cerns the col­lec­tion of catch and ef­fort data through the Marine Recre­ational In­for­ma­tion Pro­gram (MRIP). There are cer­tainly in­stances where the catch data is prov­ably wrong. There are real con­cerns about how to col­lect and how to ver­ify an­gler-re­ported data, but we have the tech­nol­ogy to do it. We sim­ply need to have some pi­lot pro­grams to fig­ure out the best way to use it.

Were there any ma­jor break­throughs dur­ing the sum­mit? Not re­ally. But the true value is the in­put from a di­verse group of fishing in­ter­ests and the right gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials lis­ten­ing to the com­ments. All of those hap­pened and will con­tinue the progress we have made. One fi­nal and im­por­tant thought: We don’t even have to re­write any fish­eries law to get these sug­gested changes done.

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