February 28, 2017
Long Beach, California
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.
NOAA Fisheries’ 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 Long Beach, California. It is not a meeting transcript. Many of the topics were discussed at length.
Participants raised concerns that sanctuaries do not improve fisheries because the displaced effort is concentrated in the areas that remain open and that better science is needed to understand the impacts on fishing. Also, the permitting process for fishing in sanctuaries is difficult. The discussion included NOAA Fisheries’ role in the sanctuary designation process and substantial interest by participants in securing a larger role for fishery management councils in the sanctuary designation process and the establishment of regulations within sanctuaries impacting fishing.
Participants noted the success of descending devices and the fundamental role played by the recreational fishing community, in partnership with the states and NOAA Fisheries, in achieving success. It was noted that the substance of conversations have shifted among fishermen from “do descending devices work” to “which device works better” to “do you have more for my friends?” Participants noted that questions remain as to whether there could be more research on descending devices and discussion of which data is incorporated in the stock assessment process.
Participants noted the potential benefits for artificial reefs along with frustration and concerns with the burdensome permitting process in California. Participants suggested that establishing a network of designated artificial reef zones within which permitting is pre-approved or streamlined, similar to designated artificial reef zones in the Gulf of Mexico, coupled with an interagency team to oversee the establishment of reefs in those zones could benefit the process.
Pinnipeds are a fundamental concern for recreational fishermen because of the impacts California sea lions have on fishing vessels and activity, anadromous fishes and dock damage. In addition to novel approaches to deterrence, participants requested more science documenting and quantifying the financial impacts sea lions have on West Coast recreational fisheries. Participants questioned the need to rescue sick or injured pinnipeds from healthy and growing populations from wildlife management, fisheries impact, and taxpayer benefit perspectives.
Participants stressed concerns that fishing access has been radically reduced. Participants voiced multiple concerns about the impact of reduced recreational fishing access which has resulted from the establishment of state and federal protected areas. These included, among others, concentration of fishing effort and subsequent depletion of target species in the remaining open areas, loss of access to fishable habitat from both areas being closed and inaccessibility of suitable open areas due to distance from access points, decreased boat sales, shifts in sales from more expensive offshore capable fishing boats to less expensive kayaks and inshore fishing vessels, and decreased participation.
Participants expressed concerns that economic activity/contributions of recreational fishermen are not given adequate consideration in management decisions and the development of regulations. In addition, there was specific concern that economic activity of recreational fishermen from non-coastal counties is not being captured.
The complexity and size of the council/NOAA Fisheries documents and the frequent 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). Additionally participants suggested participation at sportfishing shows, radio shows, or open fishing organization meetings like CCA are welcomed.
Fishermen were asked to identify their single most significant concern about the long-term viability of recreational fishing. Issues identified included:
Adequate science for management.
Health of the ocean ecosystem.
Sustainability of the sport and overregulation of the sport.
Simplification of regulations.
Maintaining funding for stock assessments and catch estimates.
Opening/closing period for fishing.
Management needs to be based on best available science.
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.