By Ryck Lydecker
In an article that appeared in our July issue, the
leaders of three key organizations that have a stake in
fishing issues provided their perspectives on how the
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is managing
our saltwater fisheries.
Leaders of the Recreational Fishing Alliance and
the Coastal Conservation Association (both organizations represent recreational anglers) took the agency
to task, most notably questioning the accuracy of the
data it uses to manage fisheries; while leaders at the
Pew Environmental Group (representing conservationists) explained the dangers of overfishing already depleted stocks.
As a follow-up to that article, BoatU.S. Magazine
asked the head of the NMFS, Eric Schwaab, for his
perspective, and his vision, for saltwater recreational
A New Direction For
Our Interview With
BoatU.S.: Some of the comments published in the last issue
were critical of NMFS’s previous management, especially the data
used to set catch limits and allocate fish between recreational and
commercial sectors. The word “guesswork” was used. Were these
Eric Schwaab: No. It’s true that we’d always like to have more
timely, more accurate, and more precise data for any or all species.
But to suggest we have no basis for the current management is an
Is NMFS in crisis management mode, as one writer stated?
As we conduct this interview, we are in crisis management mode
in the Gulf of Mexico, but for entirely different reasons — the
Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Putting those circumstances aside,
there are some acute challenges with respect to meeting the
[Congressionally mandated] deadlines to end overfishing and
rebuild fish stocks. We’re aggressively exploring alternative means
to meet some of those goals through methods other than large area
closures. The challenge is really meeting those goals in a way that
is least disruptive to fisheries by the deadlines.
One critic said recent studies show NMFS is overestimating angler effort and harvest by up to 400 percent, yet has failed to fix the data. I’m taken aback by that number and not sure where it comes from. We have better data than that comment suggests. An important
PHOTO BY PAT FORD