On November 6, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) had the opportunity to serve on the panel for a discussion regarding alternative management for recreational fisheries during a meeting of the Council Coordination Committee (CCC) in Washington, DC. The Committee consists of the Chairs, Vice-Chairs, and Executive Directors from each of the eight regional fishery management councils, or other staff, as appropriate. This committee meets twice each year to discuss issues relevant to all councils, including issues related to the implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA).
Sec. 102 of the Modern Fish Act, which was signed into law at the end of 2018, contained a provision clarifying the councils have authority under MSA to manage annual catch limits (ACL’s) based on something other than hard-pound quotas. While managing to an annual projected hard-pound quota works well for commercial fisheries with relatively few participants whose harvest is easier to count, it is often an inefficient way of managing recreational anglers with tens of thousands of participants and delayed estimates of their harvest.
The CCC dedicated a portion of the agenda at its most recent meeting to discuss alternative management measures and to hear examples or possible approaches for better management of recreational fisheries. CSF’s presentation focused generally on the differences between commercial and recreational fisheries, the fact that MSA broadly defines options for measuring the “catch” beyond weight exclusively, and offered some examples of successful, state-based management that are not based on quotas.
“I sincerely appreciate NOAA Fisheries and the Council Coordination Committee for the invitation to participate on the panel,” said Chris Horton, Senior Director of Fisheries Program. “The current practice of basing ACL’s in pounds that are projected from past catch data doesn’t reflect what is happening with a given population today, which is what anglers see. We need a system of management that accounts for the abundance of a given stock each year, allowing for harvest adjustments up or down if the abundance increases or decreases.”
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?