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To address federal fisheries management crisis:

Fishing groups call for ‘immediate action’ from Obama

A coalition of marine recreational fishing, boating and conservation organizations and businesses has called on the Obama administration to take immediate action to address a crisis within the federal fisheries management system.

In a letter to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), The Billfish Foundation (TBF), the Center for Coastal Conservation (CCC), the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) laid out an initial framework to immediately address serious and escalating problems resulting from inadequate implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) and chronic problems that exist within the federal fisheries management system.

The coalition emphasizes there are administrative actions that can be taken right away to address concerns of the sportfishing and boating industries and the nation’s 13 million saltwater anglers who depend on well-managed, healthy marine fisheries. To read the full letter go online to: www.asafishing.org/government/documents/NOAAMSALetterFINAL.pdf.

Given NOAA’s recent ban on recreational red snapper fishing from North Carolina through Florida and the potential for additional bans on key recreational saltwater fisheries, much of the frustration in the grassroots recreational fishing community has boiled over into organized protests, including one held Feb. 24 in Washington, D.C.

The coalition has called on the Obama administration to:

• Take decisive, immediate action to improve recreational fisheries data by redirecting existing funds and personnel to focus on real-time management data.

• Collect socio-economic data on recreational fishing in the communities most likely to be impacted by near-term or expected fisheries closures.

• Provide federal level direction to the fishery management councils to use common sense in their management approaches while the administration collects the requisite data to make sound management decisions.

• Develop a recreational fishing program and staff within NMFS reflective of the national economic contribution of recreational saltwater fishing.

ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman said, “We support healthy fisheries and good fishery management. It’s good for anglers, our business and our economy. We’ve developed common-sense proposals that address the need for timely, accurate data while preserving efforts to rebuild our marine fisheries. Unfortunately, what we are seeing is crisis management rather than fisheries management and this must stop before more jobs are lost and more recreational anglers are unnecessarily shut out.”

Ellen Peel, president of TBF, said, “Stock assessments for recreationally important species have been a lower priority for NMFS than is justified by the economic contribution of the recreational fishing community. Recreational fishing accounts for only 3% of the marine finfish harvested by weight, yet produces 56% of the jobs in saltwater fisheries.”

CCC President Jeff Angers added, “The groups represented are demanding conservation-oriented measures that deliver the best possible opportunity, not only for America’s anglers and the businesses that depend on them, but also for our marine resources to achieve their fullest potential. We expect to see the same commitment from NMFS. Their failure has led to the current crisis of confidence and is threatening to bring the entire system to a standstill.”

CCA President Pat Murray stated, “There is a great deal of frustration among recreational anglers, much of it attributable to an agency that doesn’t have the data, the science or the will to properly manage us. Recreational anglers have always been willing to do what is right to maintain healthy marine resources, but it is hard to have faith in many of the management measures we are seeing out of NMFS right now. There is a better path than the one they are on.”

IGFA President Rob Kramer said, “We hope our recommendations will help get this agency back on track.” NMMA President Thomas J. Dammrich added, “NOAA’s severe restrictions on recreational fishing are a direct result of the agency’s failure to collect important data, including the impacts of recreational fishing and boating. Unless NOAA takes quick and decisive action to improve its data and management of recreational fisheries, these large-scale closures will drive down boat sales and negatively impact U.S. marine industry jobs.”