West Coast Recreational Fisheries Roundtable Meeting Summaries
The NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and Northwest Fisheries Science Center hosted two Recreational Fisheries Roundtables as part of a series of national public discussions with saltwater recreational fishermen in San Diego, California on June 18, 2019, and in Seattle, Washington on July 1, 2019.
These meetings were the latest in a series of public meetings held on the West Coast to develop a strong working partnership with recreational fishermen and foster innovative science and management, economic vitality, sustainable fisheries, and healthy ecosystems. A similar set of meetings were conducted in 2013 and 2017 and were well received by recreational fishing interests and bolstered mutual understanding of priorities between saltwater recreational fishermen and NOAA Fisheries.
Summaries of the 2019 meetings are provided below. They represent a condensed overview of the general opinions expressed during the discussions. It is not a meeting transcript and many of the topics were discussed at length.
San Diego, CA Discussion Summary
Use of descending devices to decrease discard mortality has, in part, led to increased time, depth, and retention opportunities. Participants expressed that more outreach can be done in California to increase use of descending devices. Participants discussed the various types of equipment available through retail outlets and home-made kits; this discussion touched upon cost and deployment considerations, and the wide variety of settings in which the equipment may be used (private, charters with small and large number of passengers and crew). Participants discussed the importance of maintaining the voluntary nature of the program in California. Participants also recommended that depth-dependent post-release mortality research should be prioritized, including a focus on species that have the highest release rates relative to stock abundance and particular stocks of interest (e.g., cowcod, yelloweye rockfish, vermillion rockfish, etc.). Participants also discussed ways to avoid pinniped depredation through the use of different descending device techniques. Participants noted that the “milk crate” method was useful in releasing multiple fish while preventing pinniped depredation, and that fish released using mouth clip type devices, though efficient and effective, were prone to pinniped depredation.
Anglers remain concerned over impacts pinnipeds have on fish mortality, their hindrance to vessel operations, and increases in costs to both private and commercial passenger fishing vessel operations (e.g., vessels move to avoid predation, which also reduces fishing time). Participants also noted pinniped impacts to anadromous fish and vessel/dock damage, along with public safety due to instances of sea lion aggression. Participants expressed frustration over the lack of ability to effectively deter pinnipeds. Participants recommended neutering sick or injured sea lions brought into rescue centers. They requested more science documenting and quantifying the recreational and economic impacts sea lions have on West Coast recreational and commercial fisheries and the communities these fisheries support. NOAA Fisheries noted that the Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act was signed into law in December 2018 and provides more flexibility to states and tribes to remove sea lions that threaten species of salmonids and other fish listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the Columbia River and its tributaries.
Participants expressed that the complexity of regulations is a barrier to fishing. While this concern is held by both Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel (CPFV) operators and private anglers, it was recognized that private anglers that do not utilize CPFV services face substantial financial (electronic chart updates) and time costs. More so, in the case of subsistence anglers, the complexity of regulations forms a barrier to nutrition. There were mixed feelings on the use of phone applications as being a sufficient solution. Other participants noted that simplifying regulations could reduce opportunity (e.g., managing to the least abundant fish in multi-species groups). For rockfish conservation areas, participants suggested that electronic plotter companies provide chip updates, though some noted the cost of chip updates could be prohibitive and that free phone applications would provide benefits to a wider angler base; however it was widely recognized that phone applications had shortfalls, one of which was cellular service offshore.
Participants brought up concerns regarding marine spatial planning, with specific mention of user conflicts with aquaculture and wind farm operations; similar concerns pertaining to desalination plants and U.S. Navy operations were raised in previous meetings. Recreational fishermen are concerned over possible reductions in access to fishing grounds, aquaculture feed impacts on fishing resources and ocean health, and the introduction of navigational hazards that may pose risks to public safety, finances, and future fishing opportunities. While aquaculture operations may act as fish aggregating devices and provide fishing opportunities, constituents voiced concerned about the establishment of no-fishing zones within the areas of operation. Participants also expressed concerns with any new proposed National Marine Sanctuaries that would limit fishing opportunities.
Alternative Commercial Gear
NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) have been exploring the potential to use alternative gear and methods for commercial harvest of the underutilized swordfish stock off the U.S. West Coast. Participants expressed concern over the interest in certain alternative gears (i.e., longline) and requested more opportunities for involvement in these considerations.
Data and Research Needs
Participants noted data gaps in catch of anglers leaving from private docks/marinas and clubs; it was noted that vessels departing from these locations on average were larger and had more range, and consequentially higher expected catch then private vessels departing public docks and marinas. Participants expressed concerns over funding constraints for stock assessments and other research. Participants highlighted that funding should be dedicated to projects that have high outputs and have a greater effect on the public with a lower cost to NOAA Fisheries, citing examples of the tuna measuring project, acoustic coastal pelagic species surveys, and post-release mortality study of yelloweye rockfish. Participants also highlighted the need for cross-border assessments and expressed a willingness to facilitate such an initiative.
Seattle, WA Discussion Summary
Participants noted that descending devices are required to be onboard the vessel when fishing for groundfish in Washington. Participants communicated their efforts in distributing descending devices and educating anglers on the use of devices; however, they noted that opportunities remain to promote their use and educate anglers on how to use them. Participants questioned the requirement to have a descending device on all bottom-fishing trips, specifically trips that target fish, such as flatfishes, in shallower waters where barotrauma is likely to not occur.
Participants expressed concern that pinniped (California sea lions, Steller sea lions, and harbor seals) and bird depredation continues to impact salmonid populations, noting that recovering populations of pinnipeds has fueled an increase in salmon removals. Participants noted the large number of harbor seals occurring in Puget Sound and their impact on salmon smolts. NOAA Fisheries noted that the Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act was signed into law in December 2018 and provides more flexibility to states and tribes to remove sea lions that threaten species of salmonids and other fish listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the Columbia River and its tributaries.
Participants voiced concerns over the historical practice of transplanting hatchery fish across river basins. They indicated this practice, from their perspective, had led to wild or native strains of fish no longer present in many populations, and therefore the ESA protections should be relaxed. Participants noted that increased hatchery production could help support the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale, and that hatchery production would also increase recreational fishing opportunities. Participants also stated that habitat restoration, while critical, will not restore the population to levels of historic abundance as there is potential that the river’s overall carrying capacity has been reduced due to human activity.
Participants also asked for clarification regarding recent hatchery production restrictions expected to occur in the Columbia River Basin. They expressed confusion regarding the potential loss of hatchery production as a result of the production going unharvested, and asked for further clarification on the appropriate level of unharvested hatchery fish interacting with wild fish in the terminal areas.
Participants expressed that reduced sport-fishing opportunities is leading to a derby-type fishery. Participants voiced support for the examination of a different season structure for sport fishermen that lets people fish when the days are suitable.
Participants voiced concern over a lack of funding for hatcheries, expressing that static funding and increased costs over time has led to a reduced output of hatchery fish and reduction in fishing opportunities. Participants also noted that funding exists for groundfish data collection, but that funding for salmon data collection was lacking.
Representation in the Management Process
Participants requested more representation on the PFMC, noting that the charter component has different interests than the private angler component, and that representation should be proportional to the amount of anglers. Participants also voiced similar concerns in the North of Falcon process.
Distinct Population Segment vs. Evolutionary Significant Unit
Participants requested clarification over the two terms for Pacific salmon covered under the ESA. Distinct population segment is the legal term defined in the ESA. An evolutionarily significant unit of Pacific salmon is considered to be a "distinct population segment" and thus a "species" under the ESA.