By Ted Venker
Coastal Conservation Association
The illusion continues for NOAA Fisheries.
Last year the agency boldly announced it had ended overfishing. This week, the agency proudly announced that annual catch limits are now in place for most federal fisheries. Wonderful news, if either proclamation had roots in fact or could possibly translate into any good result.
Unable to muster the science to manage to the very high threshold specified by the Magnuson Stevens Act, NOAA Fisheries declared victory without even running the race. It ended overfishing and put a catch limit on every stock under management. On paper. And environmentalists cheered.
Recreational anglers are not cheering.
What will happen back in the real world now that the agency has claimed to have ended overfishing and put in annual catch limits without the science to adequately back it up? The rest of us will eventually have to pay the piper. The agency has built a house of cards and set catch limits that are not tethered to reality. When those limits are exceeded — and we are talking about limits on every single stock under management, the majority of which the agency knows nothing about — the agency will be sued. Sued relentlessly by environmental groups. With no tools to offer any other alternative, NOAA Fisheries will close stock after stock to comply with illusory catch limits. It is relatively easy to end overfishing and enforce catch limits if you simply don’t let anyone fish. And after every closure the environmentalists will cheer and commend the agency for its proactive stance. Won’t that make a good press release?
Real management is difficult and expensive, but infinitely more beneficial for the nation’s fisheries and the citizens who use and enjoy them. But functional management doesn’t seem to be the goal here. NOAA Fisheries has chosen the easier, but far more unpredictable path. By implementing everything from unfair catch shares to imaginary catch limits to archaic allocations, the agency has almost completely alienated its most valuable constituents — the anglers who actually use the nation’s marine resources and put back far more than they take out. Trust and partnership between the agency and the recreational community are at an all-time low. This community is counting the days until the Magnuson-Stevens Act comes up for reauthorization again. At this point it is hard not to believe the agency will eventually reap what it has sown, and that may not be a welcome outcome for the proper conservation of our marine resources.
The current and likely future situation is all the more regrettable when you consider that the Administration could have implemented the most turbulent provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act in about 100 different ways — 99 of which would not have left scorched earth in their wake. As concerns mount over the strangling effects of over-regulation on the American economy, it is remarkable that the agency has elected to subject America’s anglers and all their economic potential to the singularly most restrictive interpretation of the law possible, never mind the consequences.
This Administration’s attitude towards fisheries management is strikingly similar to the one that gave the public Prohibition in the 1920s, and the results are likely to be the same. Prohibition, which made criminals out of ordinary citizens overnight, didn’t work because nobody wanted it to work except a small, hardcore group of extremists who didn’t drink alcohol. The country turned itself inside out, spent billions of dollars on a misguided campaign and took more than 10 years to correct its course. The current approach to federal fisheries management is on the same path.
Whether by choice or by circumstance, the agency has frittered away the good will of even the most reasonable of its constituents and has elected to hide behind an illusion of management. This is certainly not the agency the recreational community deserves or expects, nor is it one which contains the essentials of good management.
Tags: Annual catch limits, Magnuson-Stevens Act, NOAA Fisheries
Posted in CCA Blogs, Magnuson-Stevens Act | No Comments »
Anglers frustrated with unrealistic implementation of Magnuson-Stevens Act
SILVER SPRINGS, MD – A three-day workshop on annual catch limits (ACLs) sponsored by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that concludes this week leaves very little hope that the recreational sector will find a way to mitigate the negative impacts of ACLs without a legislative fix to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the overarching federal law governing the nation’s fisheries. Rather than addressing problems with the ACL provision, NMFS staff, Council members and stock assessment scientists at the workshop were focused solely on how to more fully implement the ACL requirement in the future.
“This was not an adversarial gathering, but it is clear that NMFS is moving ahead with ACLs with very little concern for the vast differences between commercial fisheries and recreational ones,” said Richen Brame, CCA’s Atlantic States Fisheries director. “Not all fisheries are the same, but clearly the agency does not see any need to modify what has become a one-size-fits-all implementation of annual catch limits, no matter how irrational the results may be.”
The ACL provision was inserted into the 2006 reauthorization of the MSA almost exclusively to put an end to serial commercial overfishing allowed in some fisheries, most notably the New England groundfish fishery. Based on that provision, however, NMFS is putting in place strict measures to end overfishing for all fisheries in all regions, despite overwhelming evidence that they are not compatible or even defensible given the lack of information the agency has for recreational fisheries.
“No one would argue that ending overfishing is necessary, but the agency is closing down fisheries like black sea bass where an update assessment was last done in 2005 and the last full assessment was done in 2001. There has never even been a modern assessment on cobia, dolphin or wahoo in the South Atlantic, nor are there indications of trouble, but there are ultra-conservative options in play to prevent overfishing on those stocks that would slash recreational catch limits,” said Brame. “This is a system that is designed to fail, and NMFS will likely find it very difficult to rebuild any sense of trust or cooperation with the recreational fishing community if it continues down this path.”
Marine industry leaders will have another chance to engage federal managers on implementation problems the Magnuson-Stevens Act when Dr. Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and senior NMFS officials meet with boat manufacturers and tackle companies at the Miami International Boat Show this weekend.
“The agency does not have to implement this provision in this manner, and that is something we continue to convey to NOAA’s leadership,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “The agency should make a deeper commitment to more frequent stock assessments using fishery independent data and improved recreational catch data. That is certainly a better use for the $36 million that is currently set aside for catch share programs in the NMFS budget. Barring that, a legislative fix is likely the only realistic option to inject some sanity into fisheries management.”
Tags: ACLs, Annual catch limits, Magnuson-Stevens Act, MSA, NOAA Fisheries
Posted in CCA Atlantic States, CCA Federal Fisheries, CCA Gulf of Mexico, CCA South Atlantic, Magnuson-Stevens Act | No Comments »
CCA participants hope to see results after meeting with NOAA Fisheries
Outdoorsmen were out in force at the nation’s capital last week as two events in Washington DC were dedicated to how this country manages its wild and natural resources. As President Obama hosted the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors on April 16, NOAA Fisheries was hosting the Saltwater Recreational Fishing Summit on April 16-17.
Coastal Conservation Association President Pat Murray was among those invited to hear President Obama’s remarks on the importance of reconnecting Americans to the outdoors during the event at the Department of the Interior. Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, and Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, led the conference, which brought together leaders from communities across the country that are working to protect their outdoor spaces. Participants included ranchers and farmers, sportsmen and women, State and local government leaders, Tribal leaders, public lands experts, conservationists, youth leaders, business representatives and others for whom the outdoors is an integral part of their culture and community.
Just across town, a host of CCA volunteers and staff were participating in the NOAA Fisheries Recreational Fishing Summit, an event that fulfilled a promise by NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco to forge a better relationship between the recreational angling community and federal fisheries managers.
“We have participated in these kinds of summits before with NOAA leadership. Some of the CCA participants attending last week have been to two or even three of them without much to show for their efforts,” said Bob Hayes, CCA General Counsel. “However, I am optimistic that NOAA is listening and will help us with issues like catch shares, National Ocean Policy and the government’s attitude toward the recreational angling community. We did our part – we were very clear about what we would like to see change, and we provided hundreds of ways for them to do it.”
CCA participants in the 2010 Recreational Fishing Summit included:
Bob Hayes, CCA General Counsel – Next Steps and Accountability
Richen Brame, CCA Atlantic States Fisheries Director – Key Challenges Facing Recreational Saltwater Fishing Today
Mike Kennedy, CCA Florida – Regional Perspectives – South Atlantic
Ed Sapp, CCA Florida – Regional Perspectives – Gulf of Mexico
Lee Blankenship, CCA Pacific Northwest – Regional Perspectives – Pacific Northwest
Pat Murray, CCA President – Visions of Success
Matt Paxton, CCA Federal Lobbyist
Scott McGuire, CCA Maryland
Charlie Witek, CCA New York
Bill Bird, CCA Florida
Chester Brewer, Chairman of the CCA National Government Relations Committee
Russell Nelson, CCA Gulf Fisheries Consultant
Rad Trascher, CCA Louisiana
Ted Venker, CCA Director of Communications
Reaction from CCA representatives was cautiously optimistic that tangible benefits may result from the summit.
“One of the fundamental problems we’ve had with NOAA Fisheries is their utter lack of understanding the nature and management of recreational fisheries,” said Richen Brame, CCA Atlantic States Fisheries Director. ”No matter how hard they try, they cannot fit us neatly into the same management box as commercial fishermen. While I will not bet the ranch on it, there are at least signs of hope emanating from this conference that NOAA Fisheries is trying to understand recreational fisheries and may begin to manage them properly.”
“Those who participated in the summit did a great job clarifying and communicating our issues and concerns,” said Chester Brewer, CCA National Government Relations Committee chairman. “Eric Schwaab (NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries) has committed to preparing a work plan and follow-up to address the major items. I am cautiously optimistic.”
The two-day summit featured more than 30 speakers from all over the country, with plenty of time set aside for discussions among participants on key challenges and solutions for federal fisheries management.
“The stage has been set,” said Charlie Witek, CCA New York. “It’s now time for all of the actors to properly play out their roles. How they do so will determine whether the production will ultimately be viewed as a triumph, a flop or something in between. I feel, though, that at least there are folks out there who want to offer some help.”
Both Dr. Lubchenco and NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Eric Schwaab spoke at the summit, which drew a greater-than-expected crowd of 170 attendees, some from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii.
“The excellent turnout at this summit tells me that you want to be heard. And I am here to tell you that NOAA is not only listening, but we are also ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work with you,” said Dr. Lubchenco in her opening remarks. “I want to start by making one thing very clear: NOAA is committed to working with the recreational fishing community. NOAA’s commitment ‐‐my commitment‐‐ to saltwater anglers is not a hollow one. We do not intend to make empty promises.”
Schwaab told participants he had three goals for the summit: to walk away with a clear and common understanding of the issues of concern and some sense of the relative importance of those issues, nationally, regionally and strategically; to outline a process by which we will continue to work together on these issues, and to identify steps that can be taken to address these concerns; this will form the basis of an action agenda.
“We are here with a view toward the future, intent to build on previous successes, while learning from and avoiding mistakes of the past,” he said. “Over the next two days, we’ll have some focused discussions – about our desired outcomes, and pathways toward those outcomes.”
NOAA Fisheries will be posting video taken at the event to the agency’s web site in a couple of weeks, along with a complete copy of Dr. Lubchenco and Eric Schwaab’s remarks and other information. Other material on the event, including agenda packet, background documents, survey results and related documents may be found HERE.
Obama Admin Looks to Cast a Line With Anglers – New York Times, April 16, 2010
Tags: NOAA Fisheries, rec summit, recreataional fishing summit, summit
Posted in CCA Atlantic States, CCA Federal Fisheries, CCA Gulf of Mexico, CCA Pacific Northwest, CCA South Atlantic, Catch Shares, Magnuson-Stevens Act, National Oceans Policy | No Comments »