ARCHIVE | July, 2011
Anglers make case for better management of fisheries
Testimony before House committee hearing explains how lack of science impacts recreational fishing and the economy
WASHINGTON, DC – With the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continuing to struggle in the management of the nation’s fisheries, lawmakers today held a committee hearing intended to explore the impact of a looming deadline that will force the agency to set annual catch limits on stocks of fish for which it has no science. Today’s hearing, “NOAA’s Fishery Science: Is the Lack of Basic Science Costing Jobs? looked at how NOAA’s fishery research affects jobs and the coastal economy.”
As amended in 2006, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) requires federal fishery management councils to put in place annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) for every fishery by December 31, 2011. The requirements were intended to end overfishing by 2011 but were predicated on two critical assumptions: NOAA Fisheries would make decisions based on up-to-date and accurate stock assessments; and the agency would improve catch data to better anticipate potential problems in a given fishery. Neither of these obligations has been met.
Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, was invited to testify before the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs on behalf of American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association and The Billfish Foundation.
“How has the agency managed this great American business – marine recreational fishing – that generates $92.2 billion in total sales? That employs 533,813 people? That contributes $621.5 million in license purchases? How is NOAA Fisheries managing us?” asked Angers. “In a word: Poorly. All the vast, positive effects of recreational fishing on the American economy are based on three things: good management of marine fisheries, a sustainable resource and access to that resource. The agency’s lack of science is impacting all three.”
In his testimony, Angers laid out the case for HR 2304, the Fishery Science Improvement Act, sponsored by Rob Wittman (R-Va.) that seeks to avoid a situation in which the agency is compelled by statutory deadlines to make major fishery management decisions using inadequate data and incomplete analysis. In one of its core provisions, HR 2304 states that if the agency has not assessed a stock of fish in the last five years and there is no indication that overfishing is occurring, there is no requirement to set an ACL.
“NOAA Fisheries is simply making guesses in many cases when setting catch limits and in determining other management parameters, and guesswork should have no place in federal fisheries management,” said Angers. “No other wildlife resource management agency would think of operating without standardized stock surveys and assessments. Yet, for our marine resources, a hodgepodge of partial bits of information that perhaps add up to an informed guess is somehow good enough. We don”t accept that. That will always fall short of the standards we as a nation have used for managing our fish and wildlife resources.”
HR 2304 is supported by the 300-member-strong Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, as well as groups representing sportfishers and the marine industry. More than a two dozen other lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have signed on as co-sponsors.
“Without Congressional action, arbitrary decisions affecting millions of anglers and thousands of businesses will continue to be made, and we can’t let that happen to anglers on the coast of Virginia or Louisiana or California or Alaska,” said Angers. “Today’s hearing is a wakeup call beyond this Subcommittee. The millions of Americans who responsibly utilize the nation’s public fishery resources and depend on them for jobs and recreation know this Congress can and will solve this problem.”
PenderWatch/CCA Oyster Reef Building Schedule
Mark Your Calenders
Saturday, August 6, 8:30 am
Saturday, September 24, 11:00 am
We’ll meet both days in the back yard of 2176 Washington Acres Rd, Hampstead, the same house we used as command center in June. This is the second phase of three to build an oyster reef near Hampstead. The reefs will provide a barrier from boat traffic to help protect against erosion and serve as a haven for new sea life.
Volunteers should expect to be standing in water and on old oyster beds for at least part of the morning and should wear shoes with protective, closed toes. Bare feet, flip-flops and crocs are not safe. You’ll also need gloves (cheap garden gloves are fine) and we strongly recommend sun screen and a hat.
PenderWatch has 545 bags ready to deploy to finish reefs # 4 and # 5 and lay down the first row of reef # 6. We had 5 volunteers from CCA NC for the first installment…lets double that amount this time.
2011 CCA NC Legislative Update
In 2010, CCA-NC led the fight for the passage of S.L. 2010-13, an act to improve the success of Fishery Management Plans in North Carolina. However, soon after the opening of the 2011 legislation session, members of the Joint Legislative Commission on Seafood and Aquaculture introduced HB 136. This bill would have exempted the Fishery Management Plan for spotted sea trout from the requirements of S.L. 2010-13.
CCA-NC members immediately mobilized and lobbied the members of the House Committee on Agriculture against this harmful bill. House leaders then announced that no action would be taken on HB 136 and thus, the spotted sea trout FMP will be subject to the new rules.
The Joint Legislative Commission on Seafood and Aquaculture has often been a difficult obstacle to overcome as we have sought meaningful fisheries reform. The fact that public members of the JLCSA included the lobbyist for the NC Fisheries Association often led to legislative recommendations such as HB 136 that were harmful to the resource. Thus, CCA-NC supported HB 595, a bill to reorganize the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission. HB 595 abolished the Joint Legislative Commission on Seafood and Aquaculture and transferred its responsibilities to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations. The membership of this commission is limited exclusively to legislators. Governor Perdue signed HB 595 into law on June 24.
The centerpiece of our legislative efforts this session was HB 353 (Designation of Coastal Game Fish). Early on, legislative leaders told us that the bill would not be considered until after all of the budget negotiations and votes concluded. Unfortunately, the final vote on the budget veto override occurred just two days before the legislative session was set to adjourn. Thus, there was no time for action on the bill.
However, because CCA-NC members were so vocal and engaged this session, legislative leaders gave us assurances that the General Assembly will take up the game fish legislation when they return for the short session in May of 2012. The General Assembly also included a broad review of fisheries issues in the Studies Act of 2011. This bill created the Marine Fisheries Legislative Study Committee.
The committee will study the following issues:
(1) The potential impact to both the State’s fisheries resources and the State’s economy related to the designation of Red Drum, Spotted Sea Trout, and Striped Bass as coastal game fish.
(2) Changes to the appointment process and qualification for membership on the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission.
(3) Creation of a hook and line commercial fishery.
(4) Elimination of the trawl boat fishery in North Carolina.
(5) Regulating placement of nets and other commercial fishing apparatus in coastal fishing waters.
(6) Entering into agreements regarding the delegation of law enforcement powers from the National Marine Fisheries Service over matters within the jurisdiction of the Service.
(7) Potential modification of the Fisheries Reform Act of 1997.
(8) Whether Marine Fisheries should be a division of the Coastal Resources Commission or the Wildlife Resources Commission.
The Marine Fisheries Legislative Study Committee will issue a report that includes findings, recommendations, and legislative proposals before the General Assembly reconvenes next May.