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NOAA Unveils the National Saltwater Recreational Fishing Policy

Recreational fishing industry is hopeful the policy will bring about must-needed on-the-water improvements

NOAA Unveils the National Saltwater Recreational Fishing Policy
(Photo courtesy NOAA National Saltwater Recreational Fishing Policy)

Alexandria, Va. – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has unveiled a national saltwater recreational fishing policy which was greeted enthusiastically by sportfishing and boating leaders. The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) has urged the agency to develop and adopt an approach to define and coordinate federal efforts to advance saltwater recreational fishing. NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Eileen Sobeck made the announcement during a press conference at the Miami International Boat Show.

The first-of-its-kind, the National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy was one of the key recommendations of the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, of which ASA was a contributor.

“This policy represents a milestone in NOAA Fisheries’ relationship with the recreational fishing community,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman, who was present for the announcement. “While the sportfishing industry and the recreational fishing community have been frustrated with saltwater fisheries management in federal waters, much of it is attributable to the lack of clear guidance within NOAA Fisheries for how to properly manage and consider recreational fishing's interests. This new policy sets forth a path for how the agency will elevate recreational fishing in a way that benefits both fisheries resources and public access to them.”

Pulled directly from the National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy, the policy identifies goals and guiding principles related to recreational fishing to be integrated into NOAA Fisheries planning, budgeting, decision-making and activities. The goals of the policy are to: 1) support and maintain sustainable saltwater recreational fisheries resources, including healthy marine and estuarine habitats; 2) promote saltwater recreational fishing for the social, cultural, and economic benefit of the nation; and, 3) enable enduring participation in, and enjoyment of, saltwater recreational fisheries through science-based conservation and management.


"While we strongly support the goals set forth in this policy, we recognize that its success will ultimately be judged by on-the-water improvements in recreational fishing opportunities," said ASA Ocean Resource Policy Director Mike Leonard. "We are looking forward to the policy's implementation plans which we understand will be released this Spring. The implementation plan will describe how the agency will put this policy into action. These will give our community a better sense of some of the specific improvements we might see as a result of this policy."


In addition to advocating for a saltwater recreational fishing policy, the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, also known as the Morris-Deal Commission after co-chairs Johnny Morris, founder and CEO, Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president, Maverick Boats, recommended five other key policy changes including:

  • Adopting a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management
  • Allocating marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation
  • Creating reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines
  • Codifying a process for cooperative management
  • Managing for the forage base

“Many of the problems with federal saltwater fisheries management stem from shortcomings in its governing law – the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act – and therefore must be addressed outside of this policy,” said Leonard. “In order to fully realize the benefits saltwater recreational fishing provides to the nation, we call upon Congress as it considers the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization to enact the other changes described in the Morris-Deal report.”

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry’s trade association committed to representing the interests of the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry a unified voice, speaking out on behalf of sportfishing and boating industries, state and federal natural resource agencies, conservation organizations, angler advocacy groups and outdoor journalists when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. ASA invests in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous, as well as safeguard and promote the enduring social, economic and conservation values of sportfishing in America. ASA also gives America's 60 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation's waterways through KeepAmericaFishing™, our angler advocacy campaign. America’s anglers generate over $48 billion in retail sales with a $115 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for more than 828,000 people.

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