NOAA Fisheries’ Recreational Fisheries Policy Under Review: Let Your Voice Be Heard

By Will Poston, Policy Associate


This Wednesday, November 16th, at 6pm EST, NOAA Fisheries will host a public webinar to hear suggestions for updating the National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy. This policy is periodically updated to best reflect the priorities and needs of a very diverse recreational angling sector. So, this update will draw from your public comments—as well as themes that emerged from the Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit this past spring (March 2022)—and will ultimately be a guiding document for fishery managers across the country. This is a great opportunity to share your perspectives with NOAA Fisheries and positively influence all levels of management to ensure abundant, sustainable fisheries for the long-term.

Before we share some of our high-level priorities, here are some important links:

While the revised policy won’t necessarily dictate all recreational fishery management actions moving forward, it will provide direction to the eight Fishery Management Councils and other bodies for how to manage recreational fisheries. Broadly speaking, there is a lot to support in the 2015 version of the policy, but there are certainly areas where we can build upon and improve the document, as a lot has changed in just the past seven years.

The core topics we want to see greater focus on in the revised policy include: recreational data and citizen science; climate-resilient fisheries; and keeping United States’ fisheries management strong. As is also true in our fisheries, all of these priorities are somewhat interrelated. Remember, this policy is mainly for federal fisheries management, but state and other interjurisdictional bodies will certainly be paying attention, as well.

  • Citizen science presents fisheries managers and scientists with a huge opportunity to gather otherwise unavailable data directly from recreational anglers, while also securing buy-in and engagement from the recreational community. We hope NOAA Fisheries can provide some guidance on citizen science efforts to ensure that these efforts are not wasted and also can be directly used by managers and stock assessment scientists.
  • Recreational data must improve: Better data will help all of us understand the impacts of recreational fishing with more anglers on the water, emerging ocean uses, etc. NOAA Fisheries should continue to look at new and innovative technologies and solutions to improve the accuracy and precision of recreational data.
  • Climate change is already impacting our fisheries and beginning to place increased strains on management. Identifying and considering climate impacts need to become a routine activity within fisheries management, and continued research needs to be done to improve our understanding of changing marine ecosystems. Additionally, NOAA Fisheries should work to shorten the time lags between on-the-water observations and final scientific products and increase the spatial resolution of stock assessments.
  • Finally, we want to ensure that NOAA Fisheries continues to rely on the best available science, maintain catch accountability, and above all else ensure the long-term sustainability of our fisheries. With all these changes in our oceans and within fishing itself, we cannot confuse nimbleness with flexibility—fishery management should work to become more reactive and lessen time lags, but it should not sacrifice stock sustainability by injecting even more risks and uncertainties into management.

These are just some of our thoughts. We will be submitting a more complete formal comment letter ahead of the December 31st comment deadline. However, we wanted to make sure that interested anglers had some background and ideas ahead of the upcoming NOAA webinar. We encourage folks to register for the November 16th webinar and share some of their perspectives. Again, you do not need to use our ideas word-for-word by any means—this was just meant to be a quick primer.

Thanks for taking a minute to read this, and big props if you attend the webinar or submit formal comments—your friends at ASGA and your fisheries thank you!

One Response

  1. i strongly believe that recreational hms catches are highly under reported.

    good management requires good data.

    species like bluefin tuna seem to have been making a comeback. with increased harvest (many more fisherman if nothing else) it would be a tragedy to have bad data result in bad management decisions.

    i think an extremely super simple mobile reporting app needs to be highly promoted.

    also, i would encourage more study of catch and release methods and mortality rates of giant bluefin and over slot striped bass in particular – as to be able to increase promotion of better release practices backed by hard data.

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