NOAA Administrator Discusses Recreational Fishing's Concerns
Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., met with sportfishing industry leaders during the American Sportfishing Association's (ASA) 2009 Sportfishing Summit on October 27. ASA was encouraged by Lubchenco's words and looks forward to working with her to ensure that recreational fishing's voice is heard at NOAA.
"As NOAA's Administrator I am committed to adopting policies that will ensure that current and future generations have the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful activity," Lubchenco said in her remarks. "We are responding to the concerns expressed by your leaders that we don't pay enough attention to recreational fishing. I'm here to tell you that we do think you are important, that we will pay attention and that we will work with you. It is my intention to improve our relationship. I look forward to a new era of cooperative relations between NOAA and anglers across this country."
"We are encouraged by the remarks that Under Secretary Lubchenco gave at the 2009 Sportfishing Summit," ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman said. "Dr. Lubchenco told us that she will be our champion. We look forward to seeing actions come from those words and look forward to working with her and NOAA staff."
In September the Obama administration issued a draft policy, the Interim Report of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force. ASA has significant concerns with the direction the Obama administration is going in managing the United States' marine and freshwater public resources, choosing a tone of preservation over conservation. At the Summit, Lubchenco spoke about this concern.
"As an active participant in the task force process, I want to assure the recreational fishing community that this concern has been heard. The task force has now received significant input from anglers across the country. I am confident that when the task force releases its final report, your interests will be recognized," Lubchenco said. "I believe that recreational fishing is both an important pastime, which brings families and friends together, and an important economic activity. I am personally committed to a national policy which recognizes the importance of recreational fishing and ensures that it can continue to thrive."
Lubchenco discussed NOAA's new Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), which she said is intended to provide information to fairly and sustainably manage fish stocks and the ecosystems in which they live. MRIP is intended to replace the significantly flawed Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS.) However, the full implementation of MRIP will take several more years. Until the transition to MRIP is complete, fishery management decisions, some of which are draconian, are based off data from MRFSS.
"I understand that you and others have serious reservations about the extent to which MRIP will provide timely data," Lubchenco said of the recreational fishing industry. "Our intent is to design a data-acquisition process that meets our needs, one in which we all have confidence and one that enables us to manage recreational fishing to ensure the fishery is sustainable, the ocean is healthy and there are great fishing opportunities for your children and grandchildren."
During her remarks Lubchenco announced that NOAA is preparing a draft catch-share policy and will allow 120 days for input after its release. Lubchenco said that NOAA's draft catch-share program would not require any council to adopt catch-share programs. It will encourage councils to consider catch-share programs wherever appropriate in fishery management and ecosystem plans, however, to achieve long-term sustainability of our nation's fishery resources and fishing communities.