Yes. But it’s really the Science and Statistical Committees of the
councils that recommend catch limits, and we’re bound to stay
within that scientific advice, as required by Magnuson-Stevens.
One complaint is that commercial fishing interests dominate
these councils. How will NMFS work to achieve balance?
We heard that loud and clear at the summit. I think we’ve made
substantial progress and the council appointments that were
announced this week [late June] sustain that progress. Actually,
recreation is the dominant interest on the Gulf Council. And the
Mid-Atlantic Council picked up a new recreational seat.
Studies have shown that the recreational fishery is more valuable in terms of economic contribution than the commercial
sector. Are there grounds to revisit allocation decisions on the
basis of economics?
Economics is one factor that needs to be considered in allocation decisions. It’s not the only factor, but an important one. The
agency and the councils have responsibility to revisit allocation
The Angler Registry
In its January 2007 overhaul of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery
Conservation and Management Act, the foundation of federal fisheries law, Congress called for improved collection of
recreational fishing data. Thus, the National Marine Fisheries
Service developed a National Saltwater Fishing Registry to
count all anglers via a survey system that went into effect in
January of this year. In many states, a saltwater fishing license
satisfies this requirement; in others, anglers must register with
NMFS at www.countmyfish.noaa.gov.
decisions. They’re not set in stone and should be revisited based
on a variety of factors, and certainly economics is one.
Has the movement toward balance come far enough?
I’m not sure balance is the right word. Our job is to factor in the
diversity of interests that derive benefit from our coastal and ocean
resources. The foundation of that is conservation, so balance is
only a factor of some fairly narrow discussions. Our job is, first and
foremost, conservation and secondarily to ensure that the different
interests are represented and accounted for in the process. Balance
is something that changes, region to region and over time.
NOAA’s hydrographic office uses information provided by recreational boaters to update navigational charts in a successful
partnership with the United States Power Squadrons. At the
summit, we heard discussion of joint fisheries research that
would have your scientists working with recreational anglers to
collect better information or fill in data gaps. Is that feasible?
There are tremendous contributions that recreational anglers
already provide by participating in surveys, assisting with tagging,
and reporting tagged fish. One area we’re very interested in is
catch-and-release mortality, and there’s no question that one alternative to large area-based closures has got to be the application of
scientifically defensible catch-and-release improvements.
Is there room for both a sustainable commercial fishery and a
healthy sport fishery on the ocean? When will we get there?
In many places, we have that. Obviously the desire to end overfishing and have in place rebuilding plans for all major stocks will
move us closer. In other places, we’re making progress through the
council process. We’ll get there sooner rather than later.
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