New Report Elevates Voice of Recreational Anglers in Magnuson-Stevens Act Debate

From: The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership New Report Elevates Voice of Recreational Anglers in Magnuson-Stevens Act Debate Research Shows Economic Importance of Recreational Fishing; Also Proves Value of Saltwater License WASHINGTON - A new report released today by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s (TRCP) Angling 4 Oceans coalition, titled “Navigating a Future for Saltwater Fishing,” shows that 14 million recreational saltwater anglers provide a $34 billion contribution to the nation’s economy and support 360,000 jobs, a sum more than three times greater than commercial fishing’s $9.9 billion impact and 126,000 jobs. These numbers support one of the key recommendations put forth by the Angling 4 Oceans coalition – that allocations of fisheries resources should be more fairly distributed between commercial and recreational anglers. “Navigating a Future for Saltwater Fishing” includes other compelling data that reinforce all four of the Angling 4 Oceans coalition’s core SALT Principles – principles the group believes must be addressed in the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act now under consideration in Congress. The SALT Principles outlined in the report and backed by new research conducted by Southwick and Associates and Nelson Resources Consulting are: Science should be used first and foremost for fisheries management decisions. Allocation of fishery resources must be equitable for recreational fishing. Licensed anglers will improve data collection and provide much needed funding. Tackle and equipment must be less destructive. The most basic aspect of fishery management is an accurate assessment of fish populations and their biology, used along with the ecology of the system. “Without good science on which to base decisions, there cannot be good management,” said Gordon Robertson, Vice President of the American Sportfishing Association. The comparison of recreational and commercial finfish fisheries is one of the more compelling aspects of the report. Typically the amount of fish each sector is allotted is based on historical catch records – a method that often skews allocations to commercial take. For example, in the Gulf of Mexico, 83 percent of the red grouper harvest is allocated for commercial fishing, however in the Gulf States the economic impact of the commercial finfish industry is only 1½ to 6½ percent of recreational fishing. In fact, in 18 of the 22 mainland coastal states, recreational saltwater fishing has a greater impact on the state’s economy. Changing the allocation formula to consider the economic impacts of each fishing sector is a more equitable way to manage fisheries. “When you compare the economic benefits of recreational fishing with commercial fishing, the scales tip to sportfishing in the majority of coastal states,” noted the Coastal Conservation Association’s Bob Hayes. Hayes, who is also a co-chair of the Angling 4 Oceans campaign, continued, “With this in mind it is essential that marine fisheries policy should balance the interests of all fishermen. These decisions will not only benefit saltwater anglers, but also coastal economies and marine fish conservation.” TRCP’s Angling 4 Oceans campaign is also supportive of licensing saltwater anglers to improve marine fisheries management through better recreational fishing data and increased funding. Nine of the 13 coastal states with some form of saltwater license and 16 recreational or charter fishing organizations responded to a survey designed to gauge the value and effectiveness of saltwater licenses that was also released today. Every responding state and 81 percent of the responding sportfishing groups agreed that saltwater fishing licenses, and the revenues generated from the license, have improved fish conservation. Eighty-nine percent of responding states felt that recreational anglers in their state supported their saltwater licenses. “State fish and wildlife agencies know from experience that effective hunting and fishing license programs provide critical funding for conservation and generate important data to support management activities,” said Eric Schwaab, Resources Director at the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and co-chair of the Angling 4 Oceans campaign. “To some, a saltwater fishing license is controversial, but for those states that have a license in place, the survey released today shows that the license data and the funds generated significantly improve a state’s ability to manage marine resources.” Saltwater fishing license revenues in large states like Florida can provide more than $17 million annually for marine fisheries management, and smaller states can benefit substantially from revenues in the range of $1 to $3 million. All states reported that revenues collected from license sales were dedicated to supporting resource management programs, and all states reported that anglers supported the license as long as the revenues were dedicated for management. Accurate information on the number of anglers and an ability to survey those anglers will improve management decisions. Seventy-eight percent of responding states have or will soon have the ability to sample license holders and two-thirds of the states and all of the organizations believe that saltwater licenses increased their ability to collect catch and effort data. More than three-quarters of states interviewed have a formal process for anglers to participate in management decisions, and 4 of 5 sportfishing organizations say that they have greater influence over marine fisheries decisions as a result of licensing. Matthew B. Connolly, Jr., President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnerhip, commented, “If a little SALT is added to the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization, we can cook up good policy for saltwater fishing. And our campaign is working with recreational anglers to stir the pot to ensure we do.” The Angling 4 Oceans coalition and campaign brings together marine policy experts from the nation’s leading recreational fishing and marine conservation organizations including the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, American Sportfishing Association, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Berkley Conservation Institute, The Billfish Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association, Coastside Fishing Club, Environmental Defense, Izaak Walton League of America, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Sportfishing Association of California and United Anglers of Southern California. To access the full research reports, an executive summary report and more information on the Angling 4 Oceans campaign’s SALT Principles, go to: www.angling4oceans.org *** The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is a coalition of leading conservation organizations and individual grassroots partners, working together to conserve fish and wildlife and their habitat, increase funding for conservation and management, and expand access to places to hunt and fish.