December 7, 2016
NOAA Fisheries is committed to:
Sustainable saltwater recreational fisheries resources.
Promoting saltwater recreational fisheries for the benefit of the nation.
Enabling enduring participation through science based conservation and management.
The Alaska Regional Recreational Fisheries Roundtable was the first of nine planned public discussions with saltwater recreational fishermen scheduled through the Spring of 2017. These conversations are the latest in a series of agency efforts over the last seven years to develop a strong working partnership with recreational fishermen. A similar set of meetings conducted in 2013 was well received by recreational fishing interests and bolstered mutual understanding of priorities between saltwater recreational fishermen and NOAA Fisheries.
The 2016-2017 discussions look to build on past progress by creating new and strengthening existing relationships; identifying mutual interests; highlighting regional concerns and priorities; identifying inter-regional issues; and providing NOAA Fisheries with important clarifications and insights to inform regional and national agency planning.
This summary provides a condensed overview of the general opinions expressed during the discussion in Anchorage, AK; it is not a meeting transcript. Many of the topics were discussed at length.
Fishery management issues were the primary discussion topic during the meeting. Perspectives included:
Efforts to address halibut allocation between the guided recreational and commercial fisheries in Alaska through a compensated reallocation program (e.g., Recreational Quota Entity) were viewed positively by many participants. It was recognized that recreational fishermen in other parts of the country may not support similar programs.
Many participants noted the split between the guided and unguided sectors of the halibut fishery is an ongoing problem. Similarly, others noted that the guided and unguided sectors of the fishery may be better able to communicate, pursue, and achieve mutual goals if united.
Representation of recreational fishing interests in the management process was broadly discussed. Views included:
Recognition that over time the management system is improving its handling of recreational issues, despite the recreational sector holding only one voting seat on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
Concern that non-guided anglers lack representation in the management process.
There is a need to engage, educate, and involve younger recreational fishery participants in the fishery management system.
There are impediments to fishermen trying to engage in the management system including cost, time-away from work/home, and complexity of the Council process (when, who, and how to engage in the multi-stage, multi-level council and regulatory process).
Ineffective communication is a barrier to public participation in the management process. In particular, the complexity and size of the Council/NOAA Fisheries documents and the pervasive use of technical language are barriers to greater public participation. There was interest in the production of plain-language translations of technical and legal documents as well as short explanatory videos.
NOAA Fisheries’ commitment to the Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Initiative is beneficial to the recreational fishing community.
Potential and ongoing research projects involving recreational fishermen and research grant programs were discussed. Points raised included:
There are a number of NOAA-sponsored grant programs which have and can provide funding for research into priority recreational fisheries issues, including: the Cooperative Research Program, the Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program, and the Saltonstall-Kennedy Program. In Alaska, these programs provided funding for diverse projects such as a smart-phone app to estimate the size of halibut without removing them from the water, an evaluation of how regulations affect behavior of the halibut charter fleet, development of electronic logbooks, and examining ecological relationships between species (e.g., arrowtooth flounder and halibut).
The application process and program requirements for NOAA Fisheries grant programs can be daunting and may discourage some potential applicants; additional guidance from NOAA Fisheries in navigating the grants system would be beneficial.
Fishermen were asked to identify their most significant concerns about the long-term viability of recreational fishing. Issues identified included:
Environmental activism aimed at curtailing/eliminating recreational fishing.
Trawl bycatch of halibut.
Management’s failure to prioritize (provide additional fishing opportunity) fisheries with low bycatch over those with high bycatch.
Effects of pollution and environmental contaminants on ecosystems.
Cumulative habitat degradation – riverine, estuarine, and benthic marine.