March 30, 2017
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 Gulf Regional Recreational Fisheries Roundtable was the fifth of nine planned public discussions with saltwater recreational fishermen scheduled through the spring of 2017. These conversations were 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 looked to build on past progress by creating new and strengthening existing relationships through direct, face to face communication; 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 is a condensed overview of the general discussion in Houston, Texas; it is not a meeting transcript. Many topics were discussed at length.
Fishery management and changes in the fisheries were the primary focus of discussion during the meeting. Perspectives included:
Current inconsistency between federal and state fisheries regulations is confusing and frustrating for fishermen, and complicating fisheries management and enforcement. There is interest in greater state/federal consistency and creating additional fishing opportunities for certain species (e.g. red snapper).
Fishermen, retailers, boat dealers and marinas noted a shift in effort from offshore fisheries to inshore fisheries including changes in the type and amount of sales (e.g., smaller boats, in-shore tackle).There was concern that the shift has adverse economic consequences.
Representation of recreational fishing interests in the management process was broadly discussed. Discussions included:
Categorization of charter/ for-hire operations: for-hire vessel owners are operating a business, but passengers are recreational anglers fishing under recreational regulations. Should they be considered recreational or commercial?
Frustration of private anglers with the pace and outcomes of the fishery management process and perceptions that they have a limited voice in it. Willingness of private boat recreational fishermen to engage in the management process, or even follow the regulations, has diminished.
Shifts in sustainable fishing practices are amplified by the increased use of social media. Recreational fishermen are self-patrolling on social media and shifting away from “dead fish on the dock” pictures.
The Marine Resources Education Program (MREP) enhances understanding of the management process, the roles of NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf states in recreational catch and effort data collection, and educates recreational anglers about how to more effectively participate in the management process.
Differences between commercial and recreational fisheries may require different management strategies, e.g., annual catch limits in pounds of fish may not suitable for recreational fisheries.
Regional fisheries differences in the Gulf (eastern and western Gulf may be substantially different) present management challenges.
Fishermen want their catch counted accurately but lack confidence that the best methods are being used. The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) and the recent National Academy of Sciences report were discussed in detail.
There was great interest in electronic reporting methodologies among participants and exploring all available electronic reporting options for the recreational sector.
Participants were interested in learning more about recent state actions including the requirement of a reef fish permit in some states, which purposed toward data collection on fishermen who target reef fish (i.e Florida’s Reef Fish Permit). Potential benefits of a similar Gulf-wide system were discussed.
Fishermen were asked to identify their most significant concerns about the long-term viability of recreational fishing. Issues identified included:
Fair and open access for recreational fishermen.
Quality of recreational catch and effort data and stock assessments.
Privatization of the public resource.
Lack of equity between the commercial and recreational fisheries.
Limited participation and interest in fishing by younger generations.
Concerns that recreational fishing is becoming about dollars and business with reduced family and cultural values.
Involvement of industry and eNGOs in fisheries management.