February 7, 2022

CSF Offers Conditional Support for Proposed National Marine Sanctuary

Why it matters: There are currently 15 national marine sanctuaries (NMS) in United States waters that span from the Atlantic Ocean to the western Pacific Ocean, as well as the Great Lakes. The Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary is a proposed sanctuary off the coast of California that seeks to protect important indigenous cultural sites as well as important marine habitats and biodiversity. Like most national marine sanctuaries, the proposed Chumash Heritage NMS would ensure that recreational fishing remains a priority use of the waters within the sanctuary boundaries.

National marine sanctuaries (NMS) are a form of Marine Protected Area (MPA) that both protect important fisheries habitat and often promote recreational fishing as a way to enjoy the sanctuary. In fact, one of the most well-known saltwater recreational fishing destinations in the United States is the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This popular sanctuary protects the nation’s only coral barrier reef, vast beds of seagrass, and mangrove rimmed islands, all of which are important habitat for fish. It is not surprising that the Florida Keys are also home to some of the largest saltwater fishing tournaments, both inshore and offshore, in the country. While NMS are often confused with “no take” marine reserves, fortunately, the vast majority of waters in NMS are open to recreational fishing.

On January 31, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted a letter of support for the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of California. The proposed sanctuary seeks to protect one of the most culturally and biologically diverse coastlines anywhere in the world. However, the letter clearly indicated that CSF’s support is contingent upon keeping a provision in the proposed designation that will prevent the sanctuary from imposing future restrictions on recreational fisheries. Specifically, Goal 9 under the “Goals Description” section states:

“Protect economic health of the area including commercial and recreational fisheries; whose viability depends on the health of the marine resources. The proposed sanctuary shall have no impact on treaty fishing rights and impose no future regulations upon commercial or recreational fishing.”

Inclusion of this goal will ensure any regulatory changes relative to recreational fishing will be left to the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife who are in the best position to make science-based decisions to promote the sustainability of the area’s fisheries.

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?

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