Anglers promised voice in fishing policy by NOAA administrator

Alexandria, VA (Nov. 3, 2009) – The under secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator promised on Oct. 27 to provide recreational fishing industry leaders a voice in discussions about federal fishing policy currently being formulated.

“As NOAA’s administrator, I am committed to adopting policies that will ensure that current and future generations have the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful activity,” Jane Lubchenco said in her remarks during the American Sportfishing Association’s 2009 Sportfishing Summit. “We are responding to the concerns expressed by your leaders that we don’t pay enough attention to recreational fishing.

“I’m here to tell you that we do think you are important, that we will pay attention and that we will work with you. It is my intention to improve our relationship. I look forward to a new era of cooperative relations between NOAA and anglers across this country.”

Lubchenco’s remarks were a welcome development after Pres. Barak Obama’s administration in September issued a draft policy (the Interim Report of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force) that prioritized preservation over conservation of fisheries.

“We are encouraged by the remarks that Under Secretary Lubchenco gave …,” ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman said. “ … Lubchenco told us that she will be our champion. We look forward to seeing actions come from those words, and look forward to working with her and NOAA staff.”

At the October ASA Summit, Lubchenco addressed anglers’ concerns about the initial draft of federal fisheries management policy.

“As an active participant in the task force process, I want to assure the recreational fishing community that this concern has been heard,” she said. “The task force has now received significant input from anglers across the country. I am confident that when the task force releases its final report, your interests will be recognized.

“I believe that recreational fishing is both an important pastime, which brings families and friends together, and an important economic activity. I am personally committed to a national policy which recognizes the importance of recreational fishing and ensures that it can continue to thrive.”

Lubchenco also discussed NOAA’s new Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), which she said is intended to provide information to fairly and sustainably manage fish stocks and the ecosystems in which they live. MRIP is intended to replace the significantly flawed Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS.) However, the full implementation of MRIP will take several more years. Until the transition to MRIP is complete, fishery management decisions, some of which are draconian, are based off data from MRFSS.

“I understand that you and others have serious reservations about the extent to which MRIP will provide timely data,” Lubchenco said. “Our intent is to design a data-acquisition process that meets our needs, one in which we all have confidence and one that enables us to manage recreational fishing to ensure the fishery is sustainable, the ocean is healthy and there are great fishing opportunities for your children and grandchildren.”

During her remarks Lubchenco announced that NOAA is preparing a draft catch-share policy and will allow 120 days for input after its release. Lubchenco said NOAA’s draft catch-share program would not require any council to adopt catch-share programs, but that the agency will encourage councils to consider catch-share programs wherever appropriate in fishery management and ecosystem plans.