While the first official day of summer is not until June 21, National Fishing and Boating Week, June 3 to June 11, seems like an unofficial kickoff of summer. This is the week each year where people across the country celebrate getting out on the water and the ability to enjoy our beautiful natural world. As always, we want to reinforce the importance of being safe and responsible while having fun on the water.
On Saturday, the first day of National Fishing and Boating Week, I had the opportunity to fish on a commercial passenger fishing vessel (known as a headboat where I am from in Rhode Island) in San Diego. I went to see first-hand the collaborative, multi-partner research effort underway to better understand the status of nearshore rockfish species. The project involves the recreational for-hire fleet, anglers, NOAA’s Southwest Fishery Science Center, and other partners collecting data directly from anglers on the biology and population of popular rockfish species. I was pleased to join this study and hope that similar, collaborative projects with the recreational community can be implemented across the country.
The nearly 14 million saltwater anglers in the United States are a key community and partner in managing our ocean resources. During my time as Assistant Administrator of NOAA Fisheries, I have witnessed their passion and enthusiasm for the sport. When I participated last fall at the summits organized by the American Sportfishing Association in New Orleans and by the American Fly Fishing Trade Association in Charleston, I learned more about the challenges the recreational fishing community faces, such as access, regulatory constraints, and impacts from climate change. I also heard about exciting opportunities to collaborate on solutions to those challenges. We will all benefit from the energy and ideas of the recreational fishing community to help better understand, monitor, and predict our changing marine world so that generations to come can enjoy our recreational fisheries.
I would like to remind everyone of the new NOAA Citizen Science Action Plan (2023-2027) that was published earlier this year. NOAA is focused on expanding citizen science in our mission. This new Action Plan provides a roadmap for NOAA to advance public participation in our research and monitoring efforts. One particular commitment I want to highlight is:
Increase awareness of and collaboration with organizations that provide high quality citizen science data in support of fishery management
Let’s harness the passion and knowledge of recreational anglers to help us better understand and sustainably manage the fish and fisheries we all care about. I encourage you to reach out to your regional recreational fishing coordinator to help us develop these citizen science programs and discuss how you can contribute to our research.
Given the sheer size of the recreational fishing community, there are countless ways that we all can be good resource stewards, practice conservation habits, and safeguard critical marine species. This can range from using best practices when releasing your catch, to protecting sensitive marine habitats that support our fisheries, as well as avoiding interactions with marine mammals and protected species. Avoiding interactions with marine mammals and protected species whenever possible is essential. This is particularly true for species such as the North Atlantic right whale, of which there are only 350 or so remaining. Please go slow and look out for whales below in areas when you may encounter right whales.
I hope that everyone can get out and enjoy America's beautiful aquatic environments during National Fish and Boating Week or at some point during the year. I also encourage you to think about how we can work together to sustain the long-term health of our marine ecosystems on which recreational fisheries depend. Whether it is helping to fill scientific gaps, volunteering for a coastal cleanup, or taking a child fishing to inspire the next generation of boaters and anglers, we can all play a part in being stewards of our marine world. Be assured, NOAA Fisheries will continue to engage and collaborate with recreational anglers and boaters and strive to ensure the sustainability of our ocean resources.
Be safe, have fun, and enjoy National Fishing and Boating Week 2023!
NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator