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Advancing Recreational Fishing Priorities Together

June 05, 2024

Learn about some of our work to improve recreational fisheries science, management, and conditions on the water.

A young girl in pigtails holds a fishing rod and smiles at the camera. She it sitting on a white boat with other people fishing along the side of the boat behind her. People enjoy recreational fishing. Credit: National Park Trust

NOAA Fisheries is making important progress implementing the updated National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy with the support of fishers and other partners. The updated policy, revised with substantial public input, included climate and social equity goals for the first time. We also developed national and regional implementation plans, which are comprehensive roadmaps outlining projects and plans for the next several years.

Making Progress Toward our Policy Goals

Support, Maintain, and Recover Sustainable Saltwater Recreational and Non-Commercial Fisheries Resources, Including Protected Species, and Healthy Marine and Estuarine Habitats

NOAA Fisheries recognizes that sustainable, enjoyable recreational fisheries depend upon healthy fishery resources. In May, announced that just 6 percent of assessed stocks are identified as undergoing overfishing and 18 percent are considered overfished. Some important recreational stocks were removed from the overfishing list, including Atlantic mackerel and Gulf of Mexico jacks. 

But, our work isn’t done: Those stocks still require rebuilding. And, two important recreational stocks were added to the list of overfished stocks—including some Chinook salmon runs and quillback rockfish along portions of the West Coast. 

Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress has provided a historic opportunity to improve the habitats upon which our fish stock rely. In 2023, NOAA provided $480 million to improve habitats across the nation supporting 109 different projects. In May, we were pleased to announce $240 million of FY24 funding and an additional $38 million in future year funding for 46 fish passage projects. They will reopen migratory pathways and restore access to healthy habitat for fish across the country.

Promote Inclusive and Sustainable Saltwater Recreational and Non-Commercial Fishing for the Social, Cultural, and Economic Benefit of the Nation

At NOAA, we know that recreational fishing is good for the economy, good for the community and good for you. In 2022, an estimated 12.7 million recreational anglers drove $138 billion in sales impacts, contributing $79 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product. Recreational fishing also underpins the social economic fabric of many coastal communities, supporting 691,000 jobs across the country and connecting families and friends across generations.There are proven health benefits of being outside and connecting with nature that recreational fishing and other outdoor sports can provide. Fishing also provides participants the opportunity to bring home a meal of fresh nutritious seafood while enjoying time with friends!  

Enable Enduring Participation In, and Enjoyment Of, Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Through Science-Based Conservation and Management

Reliable data are foundational to successful fisheries management. NOAA Fisheries recognizes this and is taking essential steps to enhance scientific credibility and increase stakeholder confidence through transparency and partnership. We took two important steps in this direction in early 2024. 

First, we initiated a follow-up study to examine potential bias in the Fishing Effort Survey. This survey allows us to estimate how many recreational fishing trips are taken in a given year. A previous review showed that estimates derived from it may be too high. Second, we  engaged partners in an effort to holistically re-envision the state-federal recreational fisheries data partnership, including four recent public webinars. These partners include:

  • States
  • Interstate fisheries commissions
  • Federal fisheries management councils
  • Fishing public 

Advance Climate-Ready Policies and Programs to Understand and Respond to Climate-Driven Changes and Impacts on Fishery Resources and the Ecosystem

Climate change is affecting our oceans, fisheries, and the people, businesses, and communities that depend upon them. Across the nation, we have seen species distribution shifts, changes in productivity of fish stocks, coral bleaching and disease, drought, extreme precipitation events, and more. NOAA Fisheries is actively working to understand and forecast these changes and impacts and provide decision makers with the information necessary to make climate informed decisions. Our most recent regional climate science strategy action plans included regionally tailored actions to advance understanding of how climate may impact the marine ecosystem. Climate-driven shifts in fish stock distribution have become an important management challenge that needs to be addressed. We expect to publish final guidance to our fishery management council partners this summer regarding how to consider and address this challenge. It  is affecting popular recreational species, such as black seabass along the Eastern Seaboard.

Pursue and Support Equitable Treatment and Meaningful Involvement of Underserved and Underrepresented Communities in Recreational and Non-Commercial Fisheries and Stewardship

NOAA Fisheries takes seriously our responsibility to meaningfully involve and engage traditionally underserved and underrepresented populations. That’s why we’re partnering with the St. Petersburg ScienceFest to support transportation and participation of approximately 1,000 students from local Title One schools in the event. Students will learn firsthand about different aspects of science, potential career opportunities in the sciences, and of course be exposed to marine recreational fishing. We continue to partner with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the National Parks Trust to bring families of Title One School students and military veterans out on the water. They get to learn about recreational fishing, best handling practices, and marine conservation. 

This is just some of the work being done by NOAA, our partners, and fishermen to improve life on the water. Please be weather safe, handle your fish with care, and keep those lines tight!