Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Implementation Plans
These plans identify actionable, measurable, and forward-looking commitments in pursuit of our policy goals for fiscal years 2024 to 2026.
Recreational and non-commercial saltwater fisheries in the United States are the largest and most species-diverse of any around the globe. They are an essential part of the rich social and economic tapestry of coastal communities. From rainbow runners in American Samoa to Atlantic haddock in Maine, millions of fishermen contribute billions of dollars each year to the American economy while enjoying time on the water and carrying on long standing traditions.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation accounts for an astounding 1.9 percent of total U.S. gross domestic product (2020) with fishing and boating representing the largest conventional outdoor activity in the nation. Saltwater fishermen in the United States and U.S. territories are estimated to catch around 1 billion fish annually, while releasing about two-thirds of them to fight another day. Croaker, sea trout, striped bass, snapper, mahi-mahi, and West Coast rockfishes frequently top the list of the most commonly sought and caught species during the nearly 200 million saltwater trips taken each year.
NOAA Fisheries Charge
At NOAA Fisheries, we are responsible for the stewardship of the nation’s living marine resources and their habitat for the benefit of the nation. Within this charge stands our commitment to foster, support, and enhance a broadly accessible and diverse array of sustainable saltwater recreational and non-commercial fisheries. America’s millions of recreational and non-commercial saltwater fishermen are critical to shaping and achieving these commitments.
About the Policy and Implementation Plans
NOAA’s approach to recreational and non-commercial fisheries is guided by the updated National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy. Initially published in 2015, NOAA Fisheries released an updated policy in September 2023, following extensive public input. The updated policy identifies five primary goals, six guiding principles, and numerous implementation strategies.
Effective implementation of the revised policy was identified as a high priority during development. Recognizing that the value and efficacy of any policy are derived from effective implementation, we developed a series of region-specific and national-level policy implementation plans that share a common framework. Built around the policy’s goals and guiding principles, the plans identify actionable, measureable, and forward-looking commitments in pursuit of our policy goals for fiscal years 2024 to 2026, within existing fiscal environment and stewardship mandates. The implementation plans should be viewed as living documents that establish a minimum set of public expectations and identify actions to strengthen recreational fisheries while accommodating new challenges and opportunities over time.
As identified in NOAA’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy, the policy goals are to:
- Support, maintain, and recover sustainable saltwater recreational and non-commercial fisheries resources, including protected species, and healthy marine and estuarine habitats.
- Promote inclusive and sustainable saltwater recreational and non-commercial fishing for the social, cultural, and economic benefit of the nation.
- Enable enduring participation in, and enjoyment of, saltwater recreational fisheries through science-based conservation and management.
- Advance climate-ready policies and programs to understand and respond to climate-driven changes and impacts on fishery resources and the ecosystem.
- Pursue and support equitable treatment and meaningful involvement of underserved and underrepresented communities in recreational and non-commercial fisheries and stewardship.
The Guiding Principles are, in aggregate, a framework or filter through which the agency should evaluate and consider actions and decisions affecting anglers, non-commercial fishermen, and the resources on which they depend. The Guiding Principles within the policy are:
- Support ecosystem conservation, sustainability, and enhancement.
- Promote inclusive public access to sustainable and abundant recreational fishing opportunities.
- Coordinate with state, tribal, and federal research and management entities.
- Advance innovative solutions to evolving science, management, environmental, and climate-related challenges.
- Provide scientifically sound and trusted social, cultural, economic, and ecological information.
- Communicate and engage with the recreational and non-commercial fishing public.
The revised policy and these implementation plans are the latest of many substantive steps in understanding and addressing the priorities of recreational and non-commercial fishermen across the country. They reflect just a portion of the work carried out each day by dedicated NOAA Fisheries staff around the country in support of recreational fishing and fisheries. The agency will provide status updates beginning in 2024, fostering accountability with our science and management partners and the fishing public.