March 3, 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 West Coast Region hosted two Recreational Fisheries Roundtables as part of a series of national public discussions with saltwater recreational fishermen in 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 were well received by recreational fishing interests and bolstered mutual understanding of priorities between saltwater recreational fishermen and NOAA Fisheries.
The 2017 discussions looked to build on past progress by creating new and strengthening existing relationships; 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 provides a condensed overview of the general opinions expressed during the discussion in Newport, Oregon. It is not a meeting transcript. Many of the topics were discussed at length.
Participants stressed that the availability of coho salmon and winter steelhead is inadequate to support businesses dependent on those fisheries. It was also noted by multiple participants that decreased salmon availability is driving increased bottom fishing which has become, in the view of some, the backbone supporting the tackle industry in the Northwest. Targeting of halibut and albacore is also increasing in the wake of decreased availability of salmon. Participants stressed the need to maintain fishing opportunities year-round, including through rotating seasons for different species, if necessary. Safety of life at sea is a greater concern for fishermen with the shift offshore and all expressed the need to ensure anglers had adequate opportunity to get out on the water regardless of species.
Future reductions in hatchery production (e.g. Mitchell Act funded programs) will adversely impact recreational fishing seasons which reduces recreational fishing opportunity and economic contributions. The Hatchery and Genetic Management Plans (HGMP), required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), are slow to be processed. Participants noted that the information required to complete HGMPs is a struggle and excess litigation forces additional workload, which slows the permitting process considerably.
Participants noted that the addition of Puget Sound in the Coastal Management Plan has complicated the North of Falcon process. Participants would prefer to have some fishing rather than none and believe that creating a deadline would put more pressure on the process to arrive at an agreement. There was concern that the inability to come to an agreement -- as happened last year -- was going to happen again. Participants noted that it would be helpful if NOAA provided a harvest number rather than undefined objective.
Better communication would enhance public participation in the management process. In particular, the complexity and size of the council/NOAA Fisheries documents and the pervasive use of technical language are barriers to greater public participation. There was interest in the use of plain-language translations of technical materials as well as the use of graphic heavy educational materials (e.g., fish ID guides) in a variety of languages such as Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Participants suggested greater placement of news and updates from NOAA Fisheries in sportfishing magazines.
Participants noted satisfaction with representation in the council process, specifically in terms of the number of seats held by recreational interests. Concern was expressed with regard to the treatment of recreational issues at the council, specifically what was seen as the regular postponement of recreational issues to subsequent council meetings in order to address other issues with “mandates” under the law. Participants stressed the importance of maintaining the “place in line” of recreational fishing topics on the council agendas. Discussants were interested in approving research via Exempted Fishing Permits (EFP) and faster approval of EFPs on issues that could benefit recreational fisheries, such as avoiding and reducing discards. From a regulatory perspective, participants noted concerns that regulators are quick to reduce access but slow to consider loosening restrictions. Interest was expressed in having the Council front load conditions in fishery management plans/amendments triggering consideration of loosening restrictions to provide some sense that restrictions are not permanent.
Infrastructure was a concern for many in the meeting. This included maintaining and replacing existing infrastructure, such as the need to dredge harbors and harbor entrances and the difficulty in replacing docks because of habitat complications (growth of seagrass around an existing dock).
Many participants voiced strong concern and distrust of the national marine sanctuary and monument processes and viewed them as “adversarial.” Participants stressed the desire to have the regional councils set regulations within sanctuaries and monuments, not those entities themselves.
Fishermen were asked to identify their most significant concerns about the long-term viability of recreational fishing:
There is a need to engage, educate, and involve younger recreational fishery participants in the fishery management system.
Consolidated voice/coordination among fishermen.
Crew availability (lack thereof).
Lack of fish abundance.
Societal priority and changing demographics (e.g., decreasing youth participation in outdoor activities; loss of baby boomer participation).
Inadequate data and science to support management.
Negative perceptions of fishing opportunity/species availability.
The unchanging nature of/slow pace of change to salmon hatchery management regulations.
Overly burdensome/unnecessary regulations.
Inadequate notice of changing regulations.
NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region hopes to build off the momentum of the roundtable discussions by continuing to work directly with anglers and fisheries managers through continued implementation of the priorities and projects discussed at the roundtables and shared in the West Coast Region Recreational Fisheries Policy Implementation Plan. The 2016-2017 Regional Saltwater Recreational Policy Implementation Plan seeks to improve recreational fishing opportunity and stewardship throughout the Pacific states.