NOAA promises to “take fresh look” at sport fishermen

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The Alexandria, Va.-based American Sportfishing Association that represents the recreational fishing industry, says Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will “take a fresh look” at NOAA’s relationship with the recreational fishing community.

What? Have we been bad and now need to be looked at again, perhaps to pass muster by the federal government?

The sportfishing association is hopeful Dr. Lubchenco’s announcement signals a new era within the NOAA. Could be that NOAA might work with recreational saltwater anglers as policies and processes are developed.

Let me tell you right now: Be glad that the NOAA folks don’t get involved in freshwater fishing. We’d be in deep trouble because over the years the Feds have shown way more interest in helping commercial interests than saluting the recreational fishing community for the huge sums of money it provides for American businesses and helping weary citizens maintain their sanity by providing incredibly important rest and relaxation whenever a little free time is made available during hectic daily life situations.

Sadly, the tens of millions of American recreational anglers continue to be viewed by many government regulators, fish and game offices and other rule and law makers as little more than a nuisance. In the case of saltwater fishing, they’re viewed as interlopers, people who get in the way, and – whenever a fish species suddenly experiences a down-turn – see fingers pointed at them as if sport anglers are to blame for the ills experienced by commercial fish netters.

However, ASA president and CEO, Mike Nussman, said, “Although we are a long way from ensuring that the industry’s and anglers’ concerns are addressed, this is a good first step for NOAA. We view Dr. Lubchenco’s announcement as a genuine effort by NOAA to engage our industry and we look forward to working with the agency. The sportfishing industry has always supported fisheries management efforts that seek to improve our nation’s fisheries, salt or freshwater. Strong fisheries mean a strong industry.”

In August, industry leaders met with NOAA leadership to discuss a variety of issues of concern to the recreational fishing community, emphasizing the need for and importance of better scientific data and statistics when it comes to the marine recreational fishing sector. They also stressed the vast economic contribution of the sportfishing industry, which is roughly equal to that of the domestic commercial fishing sector.

“I’m pleased that Dr. Lubchenco recognizes that saltwater anglers are one of NOAA’s largest organized constituencies,” Nussman said. “Millions of Americans count on NOAA to manage our marine fisheries for their enjoyment and their livelihoods. I am hopeful that this is a turning point in NOAA’s relationship with the industry and with recreational saltwater anglers.”

We’ll see. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for the government to give equal booking to us sport fishermen.

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