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NOAA Recreational Fisheries Year In Review

December 14, 2021

Check out NOAA Fisheries recreational fishing highlights from 2021.

Recreational fisherman with Atlantic Sailfish Recreational fisherman with Atlantic Sailfish. Credit: Austin Porter.

The United States has the largest and most diverse recreational fisheries in the world. Each year, millions of saltwater anglers contribute tens of billions of dollars to the American economy while supporting nearly 500,000 jobs. Saltwater recreational fishing is an economic powerhouse, and engaging with anglers remains a top priority for NOAA Fisheries. We work with fishermen, states, and many other partners to safeguard and promote public access to healthy and sustainable saltwater fish stocks.

While 2021 continued to challenge all of us in unexpected ways, we remained committed to achieving and promoting access to sustainable recreational fisheries. 

National Highlights

Photo Contest

In August, NOAA Fisheries, in partnership with Bonnier Corp, launched NOAA’s Favorite Catch Photo Contest 2.0. The contest gives American anglers a chance to show their passion for sustainable saltwater recreational fishing. This year’s new and exciting tournament-style contest was open to the millions of saltwater recreational anglers across the country. 

Recreational Fishing Initiative

To remain engaged with anglers and on the issues important to you, our team ramped up virtual engagement in 2021. We co-hosted a series of virtual roundtable discussions with NOAA Fisheries regional staff to gather input for the upcoming 2022 Recreational Summit and stay abreast of important local issues. We released our first ever video series featuring five informative and educational recreational fisheries videos from around the country. 

We continued our collaboration with numerous private and public sector entities (e.g., Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and the Department of Interior). We celebrated National Fishing and Boating Week with exciting new content helping to reach a record number of prospective anglers. We also strengthened our partnership with Bonnier Corporation, the nation's leading publisher of fishing and outdoor magazines, by co-hosting the 2021 national recreational fishing photo contest

Regional Highlights

NOAA Angler Engagement Projects
NOAA Angler Engagement Projects. Credit: NOAA Fisheries


Recreational fishing coordinators from the Alaska Region evaluated mechanisms that could provide funding for the Recreational Quota Entity. They worked closely with regional stakeholders, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and other NOAA Fisheries staff. The RQE is a non-profit organization authorized to purchase commercial halibut quota shares from willing sellers in the commercial halibut sector. The purchased quota would then augment the existing amount of halibut currently allocated to the halibut charter fishing sector. The Alaska Regional Office produced an informative video providing marine mammal guidance for anglers in Alaska.

Greater Atlantic 

NOAA Fisheries successfully partnered with the Hispanic Access Foundation, NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. In June, they joined with the Mayor of Lawrence, Massachusetts, for a bilingual virtual family fishing event. Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary staff provided information on the connectivity of the Sanctuary with the Caribbean with a fun quiz game. Mass DMF staff taught families how to fish and the importance of being responsible anglers. NOAA provided participating families with fishing kits so they could put these techniques to the test. The Regional Office and Northeast Fisheries Science Center also produced a video highlighting how anglers can help ensure the health of cod and haddock.

West Coast 

NOAA Fisheries' West Coast staff continued to successfully engage anglers despite operating in the virtual environment. The West Coast hosted four recreational fisheries roundtables. One was focused on identifying habitat priorities within the Eel River watershed, and a second focused on priorities in the Puget Sound watershed. Additionally, the West Coast region:

  • Co-hosted sustainable recreational fishing presentations in support of community-organized youth fishing trips

  • Created and distributed a new catch and release best practices guide through social media channels

  • Engaged anglers on the latest happenings of West Coast fisheries via regular email updates


With partners, the Southeast Regional Office launched the Return ‘Em Right campaign. This angler-driven initiative will tackle release mortality from barotrauma in Gulf reef fish. The program offers Gulf of Mexico anglers an opportunity to sharpen their release skills when targeting reef fish like groupers and snappers. In return, anglers will receive free release gear to use on the water. 

NOAA Fisheries, the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fisheries Management Councils, and other partners launched the South East For-Hire Integrated Electronic Reporting system. It provides more accurate and reliable fisheries information about for-hire catch, effort, and discards in the Gulf and South Atlantic. Fishermen directly improve data collection that is critical to population assessments and better fisheries management.improve catch and effort data. To highlight the importance of the Southeast region and recreational fishing, we released a video highlighting the recreational opportunities.

Pacific Islands

NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office continues to provide grant opportunities for non-commercial and recreational fishing partners in the region, including Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Hawaii. This year's awards, totaling more than $125,000, will:

  • Support essential non-commercial fishery data collection

  • Help perpetuate traditional fishing techniques

  • Reduce marine debris

  • Promote sustainable recreational fishing, safety, management

The Pacific Islands Regional office collaborated with local fishermen and fishing communities to tell the story of recreational and non-commercial fishing in American Samoa. The video, We Fish! American Samoa, offers a lens into Samoan culture, and gives a glimpse into the different types of fishing methods common in the territory.

Additional Recreational Fisheries Work

Highly Migratory Species

Atlantic Highly Migratory Species worked with both internal and external partners to develop outreach videos meant to educate the angling public about HMS permitting and catch reporting requirements. We developed the Highly Migratory Species: Catch and Release Best Practices and Catch Reporting video which highlights the agency's mission to manage recreational fisheries. We also worked with On The Water magazine to develop materials that inform tuna anglers on permitting and reporting requirements.

Habitat Conservation

NOAA Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation continued their partnership with the Recreational Fisheries Initiative. We supported four new on-the-ground habitat restoration projects led by anglers in Maryland, Louisiana, Washington, and Alaska with grants totaling almost $250,000. We also joined with The Nature Conservancy to launch the Salt Marsh and Seagrass Fish Production Calculator. It quantifies the number and type of fish, shrimp, and crabs produced by these important nursery habitats in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Looking Ahead to 2022

National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit

NOAA Fisheries is once again partnering with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission for the 2022 National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit. It will be held on March 29-30, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia. This Summit’s theme will be “Recreational Fisheries in a Time of Change.” 

Guided by a steering committee of private recreational anglers, for-hire captains, and industry representatives we are working hand-in-hand to craft a thoughtful engaging agenda addressing the most pressing questions of the day.  

Learn more about the 2022 Summit

Last updated by Office of Communications on January 05, 2022