NOAA Fisheries is seeking input from saltwater anglers to aid in the creation of a National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy. Russell Dunn, National Policy Advisor for Recreational Fisheries will host a public webinar on Monday July 28th starting at 2 p.m. ET to hear what people think would make a good National Saltwater Recreation Fisheries Policy.
On Thursday, July 24th, members of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) attended a National Town Hall meeting at the NOAA Science Center in Silver Spring, MD to participate in the discussion. According to RFA executive director Jim Donofrio, it's important that saltwater anglers pay attention to some of what's being proposed along the way.
"The recreational policy discussion guide proposed at earlier regional council meetings has prompted input from the public, not all of it good for recreational fishermen," Donofrio said. "NOAA Fisheries has collected comments from some folks who would like to see fish watching and eco-tourism considered under the recreational fishing definition, even selling fish to pay for expenses as covered under recreational fishing."
"Very simply, recreational fishing should be defined as fishing for sport, pleasure and food," Donofrio said.
The status of recreational data collection continues to be of critical importance to saltwater anglers who question the validity of the government data. "Our fishermen from New England down to the Gulf of Mexico are being short-changed because of questionable data, from haddock, to sea bass, summer flounder, and red snapper on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts."
"We already have abundant stocks with limited recreational access, and anglers are not happy about it," Donofrio said. "NOAA Fisheries' staff needs to get a better handle on how high the frustration level has grown in the community, particularly if they're going to ask for serious consideration of this national saltwater recreational fisheries policy."
Having reviewed some of the progress to date with regard to the new Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) and latest pilot project for the effort survey, RFA is concerned that NOAA statisticians may be minimizing the value of the registry frame in conducting annual harvest surveys.
"The National Research Council clearly said that we should move towards a known sampling framework for surveys, yet NOAA appears to be ignoring some of those recommendations, watering down the registry sampling by only using it only as a supplement to the random digit dialing," Donofrio said.
"I hope we're wrong here, but it sure looks like NOAA may be attempting to minimize a catastrophic disruption to 20 years of data by going to great lengths to maintain overinflated MRFSS estimates on participation," Donofrio added.
If you are unable to join the webinar on Monday, July 28th, you can view the remaining in-person meeting schedule, review past meeting summaries, and share your thoughts online (until September 12th) through the National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy website.
Despite some concern, RFA is still appreciative of NOAA for initiating this undertaking. "As illustrated by the town hall meeting at NOAA Fisheries, this is definitely the proper venue for this type of public initiative, as opposed to attempting to create a recreational fishing policy through an act of legislation in Congress," Donofrio said, adding "which is why we're encouraging anglers to take advantage of this opportunity to provide their honest input."