Category Archives: Fishing Politics

Why Did the National Marine Fisheries Service Publish Misleading Information?

Federal Fisheries Agency Adjusts Misleading Economic Information on fishing
from The Fishing Wire

(Editor’s Note: Just when you thought you had seen it all, the National Marine Fisheries Service has now admitted a key fisheries economics report showing commercial fishing of greater value than recreational fisheries in the U.S. included billions in foreign imports! Here’s a closer look from the American Sportfishing Association.)

After significant objection from the recreational fishing and boating community, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has taken steps to correct a key fisheries economics report that misleadingly indicated that the domestic commercial fishing industry in the United States was significantly larger than the recreational fishing industry. When imported seafood, which is not regulated or managed by NMFS, is removed from the equation, the corrected data show that the recreational fishing industry is actually $7.9 billion dollars larger than the commercial fishing industry. Furthermore, the corrected data show that the domestic commercial fishing industry actually decreased by $2.3 billion in 2012.

“When seafood imports, industrial species, shellfish and fish that aren’t caught by recreational anglers are removed, recreational fishing generates $33.3 billion dollars more than their commercial counterparts while taking far fewer pounds of fish,” said Ted Venker, Conservation director for the Coastal Conservation Association. “That is the apple-to-apples number that needs to be considered when we are talking about management decisions that impact domestic fisheries, and it is important that NOAA corrected the data.”

In late April of this year, NMFS released its Fisheries Economics of the United States 2012 with the headline “NOAA Reports Show Strong Economic Gains from Fishing, Continued Improvement in Fish Stocks,” but there was no indication that the agency had changed the way the economic impact data were compiled in the report. Previously, NMFS separated imports from domestic industry figures and reported each separately. In the latest report, the agency eliminated that distinction and simply published a total that included domestic and imported seafood. As such, topics such as imports from illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, 75,000 pounds of shark fins and shrimp harvested by practices that the U.S. has banned were included in the totals for the domestic commercial sector.

“It was important to set the record straight because people naturally use this report to compare the two sectors, and combining imported seafood with domestically caught seafood gives an overinflated and incorrect representation of the economic impact of this country’s commercial fishing industry,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. “This is particularly risky if this information is used to halt progress on important management decisions such as how fisheries are allocated between the two sectors. More than 64 percent of the total sales of seafood is generated by imported product which should have no bearing whatsoever on allocation discussions.”

Recreational fishing and boating organizations including the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association and National Marine Manufacturers Association recently met with agency officials to request a correction. The agency refused to reprint the report, but did release a web query that allows individuals to remove imports and generate an accurate report on their own.

Do We Need Another Marine Sanctuary?

More Marine Protected Areas on the Way?
Jim Shepherd
from The Fishing Wirerd

President Obama says he’s planning to create the world’s largest marine protected area in the south-central Pacific Ocean. The announcement comes from the White House during Secretary of State John Kerry’s Oceans Conference underway this week in Washington. And like presidents Bush and Clinton, he’s doing it without the approval of Congress.

“Growing up in Hawaii, I learned early to appreciate the beauty and power of the ocean,” he said, “And like Presidents Clinton and Bush before me, I’m going to use my authority as president to protect some of our most precious marine landscapes, just like we do for our mountains and rivers and forests.”

Not everyone is a fan of the president’s use of the executive action, especially since he has already used the Antiquities Act of 1906 as grounds to designate eleven new national monuments on land, closing millions of acres of land.

Opponents of his actions are quick to bring up the fact that his actions block any commercial activities on vast regions-including oil and gas development. More evidence, they say, of his obsession with alternative energy, despite the disasters of Soylindra and other administration-championed boondoggles.

Representative Doc Hastings, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, was direct in his opposition to the plan in a statement released after the announcement: “Oceans, like our federal lands, are intended to be multiple-use and open for a wide range of economic activities that include fishing, recreation, conservation and energy production. It appears this administration will use whatever authorities -real or made up – to close our ocean and coastal areas with blatant disregard for possible economic consequences.”

The administration’s response is that with the latest marine protection area it appears will “only” impact commercial tuna fishing. And there’s are still a few details that remain to be worked out. The White House says it has yet to determine the size of the new protected area- or determine what statute it would be created under.

They also say there will be meetings and consultations with outside groups including environmentalists, the fishing industry and elected officials. Privately, fishing industry leaders tell me they expect to have the same voice in the decision-making process that the firearms industry was given in the administration’s drive for more stringent gun controls after the Sandy Hook tragedy.

If that’s the case, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that there will be no fishing- commercial or recreational- allowed inside those protected areas. Ditto other recreational activities as the administration is moving to “protect the oceans” from “overfishing, pollution, and climate change.”

Additionally, Secretary of State Kerry is calling for the creation of a “global ocean strategy”. That, too, is resonating with environmental groups who have pushed for the closure of huge chunks of land and sea to virtually all human interactivity.

In these latest announcements, it sounds as if the administration isn’t really differing from prior ones in their moves to protect our natural areas, but there is a key difference. When the Bush administration, for example, created a 140,000 mile marine area, it was designated a marine sanctuary not a marine protected area. According to the World Conservation Union definitions, there are several important differences: a sanctuary is an area designated free from hunting, while a protected area may have prohibitions on fishing, hunting or development- meaning the laying of cables or oil drilling.

Under one designation, the species of the area are protected from overfishing or other harmful practices. Using the other; designated areas are off-limits to virtually any access beyond surface transit. That, too, may be strictly regulated or prohibited entirely.

Protection of our natural resources is a responsibility each of us must share.

Prohibition of the use of those resources, however, is not something we should permit.

Responsible use and protection are not mutually exclusive.

Is HR 4742 Good For Fish, Fishermen & The Recreational Fishing Industry?

HR 4742 Is Good For Fish, Fishermen & The Recreational Fishing Industry

While a fair number of conservation and fishing groups were “underwhelmed” by efforts of Congress to improve the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Jim Hutchinson of the Recreational Fishing Alliance sees more good than bad in the bill. Here’s his take:

By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
from The Fishing Wire

The Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act (HR 4742) introduced by House Natural Resources committee Chair Doc Hastings (R-WA) is an effort to improve and strengthen provisions of the current Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens).

In the days since this bill successfully moved out of committee, scores of recreational fishermen and industry professionals have reached out to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) for perspective. Having lobbied for 7 years to incorporate some limited management flexibility in the law while highlighting the bureaucratic problems with meeting restrictive congressional mandates using “fatally flawed” data, RFA sees HR 4742 as a terrific step towards addressing many of the problems faced by saltwater anglers today.

One portion of the bill would allow an extension to the time required to rebuild a fish stock beyond the existing 10-year requirement in certain cases. This language is similar to rebuilding language included in legislation previously introduced and supported by the RFA, except that HR 4742 does not include limits on the length of the rebuilding extension.

“We have always argued that the arbitrary deadlines created by Congress didn’t make sense for rebuilding periods, but RFA never supported open-ended rebuilding time frames either,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “There are, however, existing provisions in Magnuson Stevens related to ending overfishing that pretty clearly protects the fish stocks while allowing this deadline flexibility.”

RFA has argued against the rigid and inflexible nature of fixed rebuilding deadlines since the last reauthorization of Magnuson Stevens, when a three-year extension in the summer flounder rebuilding deadline was plugged into the law in the 11th hour to address a rapidly approaching deadline for that Atlantic Coast fishery. The three-year extension proved that fisheries could be rebuilt with a little bit of management flexibility while anglers continued to access a fishery.

“The fisheries management councils are now asking for this flexibility, and after dozens of hearings in the House Natural Resources Committee, members now understand the need for change,” Donofrio said.

HR 4742 would also make modifications to allow the regional fishery management councils to set ‘annual catch limits’ in consideration of changes in an ecosystem and the economic needs of fishing communities. It would also permit councils to set multiyear annual catch limits to afford some stability in recreational specifications. RFA explains that this section is important given that there is no data collection program in existence today that can estimate recreational landings on a level accurate enough to reasonably apply annual catch limits to the recreational sector.

“The methodologies used by NOAA Fisheries were designed to show trends over multiple years and broad geographic ranges, which is precisely why RFA has argued for exemptions in the recreational sector from enforcement of these annual catch limits as written under the present law,” said Donofrio.

Under this portion of the bill, regional councils could exercise some flexibility in setting annual catch limits in the recreational sector, which could assist our beleaguered red snapper fishermen in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. In specifically addressing the red snapper issue, Rep. Hastings’ bill also directs federal funding through the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act towards development and implementation of a real-time reporting and data collection program for Gulf of Mexico red snapper.

“The data collection problem is horrible, and the Hastings bill would make use of existing federal funding to improve data-poor fisheries in the Gulf and South Atlantic,” Donofrio added. “There’s also a section of HR 4742 to extend the seawards boundary of coastal states in the Gulf out to 9 miles for the purposes of managing the recreational red snapper fishery and allowing states to make better local decisions based on their own data collection.”

As referenced above with regard to the open-endedness of timelines along with other issues, Donofrio said the Hastings bill is good but not perfect. “There’s a piece that gives the Secretary of Commerce the ability to increase the length of emergency regulations and interim measures from 180 days to 365 days–that’s a free ticket to declare fisheries closed without public participation and input,” he explained.

However, having spent the past 7 years pushing Congress to consider legislation to incorporate limited management flexibility in the law, RFA is hopeful for change despite trepidation by some members of the recreational fishing industry. “I know some members of the community are adamant for example that Magnuson-Stevens includes a national policy for recreational fishing, but NOAA Fisheries is presently working to create a national policy so let’s not bog that down in a broken congress,” Donofrio said.

Another debate has emerged of late with regard to something known as ‘ecosystem-based’ fisheries management, specifically managing those ecosystems for forage base. While Donofrio said anglers may understand ecosystems and bait, putting that onus on Congress to define the terms for NOAA Fisheries to follow is another bureaucratic logjam waiting to happen.

“Imagine if the folks at Pew or Oceana decide that there may be special corals at your favorite sea bass or red snapper reef, next thing you know you’re not allowed to fish on that particular ecosystem,” Donofrio said.

Some of the Pew-supported groups have tabbed the Hastings bill as the ’empty oceans act’ claiming the legislation will roll back vital conservation measures necessary for healthy and sustainable fisheries, which Donofrio calls gross exaggeration.

“RFA’s team of experts, scientists, policy professionals and attorneys looked at HR 4742 very closely, and they see this legislation as addressing 80 to 90 percent of what’s at stake for our recreational fishing community right now.”

“If we could get together and get 80 percent of what we need in a bill to get fishermen fishing again, in this congress, we should do it,” he added. “Even with HR 4742 missing some industry wish list items, this is a bill worth supporting.”

With key amendments added to the Hastings bill by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), there’s a lot to be excited about with HR 4742; but now comes the tough part getting the House and Senate together on a conference bill which the President can sign into law which will truly benefit the fish, the fishermen and the fishing industry.

Are Federal Fish Hatcheries Fine For Now?

Federal Fish Hatcheries Fine For Now

Editor’s Note: Over the past year, The Outdoor Wire Digital Network has been following the continued efforts of some government administrators to close the nation’s fish hatcheries. The battle to keep the hatcheries running has been an ongoing for several years. More than once, only the actions of Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have kept the story in front of the public-and the hatcheries funded. Seems Senator Alexander has once again managed to secure funding for the hatcheries-and the assurances that those operational funds can not be used to close them.
from The Fishing Wire

Etta Pettijohn has the latest on the campaign to save the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hatcheries operating.

Alexander Once Again Secures Hatcheries Funding

Sen. Lamar Alexander, (R-TN) has secured funds to keep the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) hatcheries operating-as well as a stipulation that none of the Interior funding be used to close these hatcheries-in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) of 2014.

The “omnibus” spending bill defuses the threat of another government shutdown, and provides some relief from the FWS’s relentless efforts to shutter the agency’s mitigation hatcheries.

The legislation, signed by President Barak H. Obama last week, contains 12 of the annual bills that provide funding for discretionary federal programs, and funds the government until October 2014.

An administrative provision in the Corps of Engineers (COE) budget includes $4.7 million to reimburse the Fish and Wildlife Service to continue to operate the Erwin and Dale Hollow hatcheries in Tennessee; and more than $46 million to continue operations at every hatchery in the National Fish Hatchery System as requested. Also, none of the funds in the Interior bill may be used to terminate operations or to close any facility.

The FWS has attempted in recent years to close the hatcheries, claiming budget shortfalls, etc. However, Alexander in 2012 and 2013 secured funding for the operations from both the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Corps of Engineers (COE).

Despite this funding, the agency has persisted with its plans to shift the operation of these to stakeholders like state fish management agencies, and these two federal agencies.

Provisions in the appropriations recognize the reimbursable agreements the FWS has entered into with the COE, TVA, the Department of the Interior’s Central Utah Project, and the Bonneville Power Administration, in order to continue to operate mitigation hatcheries, and have provided the requested funding in the Energy and Water Development division of the CAA.

Red Snapper Anglers Get Lowered Amount of Allowed Catch

Amendment 40 – Anglers Get Dumped

Today’s feature comes to us from Ted Venker, CCA’s Conservation Director, who notes that anglers who want their share of the red snapper fishery had better step forward, now, before it’s too late.
from The Fishing Wire

By Ted Venker, CCA Conservation Director/TIDE Magazine Editor

It’s called the “Friday news dump.”

The White House, other federal agencies and even public corporations have often set the release of bad news and unflattering documents to late Friday afternoon in the hopes that whatever is being released will be ignored or missed or forgotten over the course of the weekend.

Got a scandal? Dump it on Friday.

Got a controversy? Dump it on Friday.

Got a federal policy disaster? Dump it on Friday.

The concept has lost effectiveness with the demise of traditional media. You could get away with it when all you had to avoid was the newspaper on Saturday morning (which no one read because they all had better things to do on the weekend), but the internet never sleeps and so the Friday news dump has become a sad cliché. There is even a website dedicated to it – fridaynewsdump.com. Nonetheless, old habits are hard to break.

So if the jig is up on Friday news dumps, what are you left to do? Well, you up your game and go for the holiday news dump.

Got something wildly unpopular that has been soundly rejected time after time, but you’re going to advance it anyway because it makes your job easier? Dump it on….Christmas Eve!

And so it was that the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council announced on Dec. 24 that it is proceeding with an extremely controversial amendment for sector separation. That followed on the heels of an announcement about an equally controversial pilot program to let a handpicked set of 17 headboats fish year-round for red snapper using their own personal allocation of fish beginning January 1. Releasing information like this on the afternoon of Dec. 24 brings the art of hiding controversial news to a new low.

CCA members have been asked to comment against these schemes many times. The public has already sent literally thousands of comments against concepts that attempt to funnel access to marine resources through a very few select businesses. The response to these concepts has been wildly skewed in opposition, as it is commonly realized that the only people to benefit from them are the businesses that will use those public resources for their own financial gain.

However, just like when you played football as a kid in the field by your house, somebody didn’t like the results and called “Do-over.” None of those previous comments apparently counted. Not even the ones from Texas Governor Rick Perry. Nope, sorry Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, yours didn’t count either.

The Council let it be known with its stealth release on the afternoon of Christmas Eve that this time, for sure, they really want to know how you feel about Amendment 40 – Sector Separation. And, at the same time, they announced that they don’t really care what you think about sector separation because they went ahead and launched the Headboat sector separation pilot program already.

What’s the purpose of this public comment thing again?

The only thing more disingenuous than the Christmas Eve News Dump is the charade of public comment in federal fisheries management on this issue. There is nothing in the glorious history of sector separation that indicates the general public matters in this arena. If it did, then these plans to give away fish to private businesses would have been dead and buried long ago.

Why should we care if yet another comment period is open on plans to divide up the recreational sector and give another small group of business-owners an insurmountable advantage over the general public in the red snapper fishery? The uncomfortable truth is that if we flooded the Council website with comments in opposition to this nine times in the past and washed our hands of it on the 10th time, that 10th time would forever be held up as evidence that this is what the public wants.

As sorry as this whole episode is, we can’t let that happen.

We must fight this all the way to the end. You have done your part repeatedly and you’ve done it well. This is a battle in which we are struggling not because we are wrong or apathetic, but because the system doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. We are up against a system that does not understand recreational angling and often acts like it doesn’t want to. You need look no further than the fairly insulting decision to release an announcement of the most controversial federal fisheries amendment in recent history on Christmas Eve.

This comment period is a chance to oppose sector separation one more time, and we should take it. But more significantly, it is an opportunity to send the message that millions of recreational anglers cannot be oh-so-casually dismissed. We deserve far better treatment than this.

The comment period on Amendment 40 – Sector Separation is open until Jan. 23. Click HERE to submit comments electronically or submit written comments to:

Peter Hood
Southeast Regional Office, NMFS
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

The next meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will take place February 3-6, at the Westin Galleria Hotel, 5060 W. Alabama Street in Houston, Texas.

CCA Louisiana is the largest marine resource conservation group of its kind in the state. Entering its 31st year with more than 30,000 members and volunteers in 26 local chapters, CCA has been active in state, national and international fisheries management issues since 1977. Visit www.CCALouisiana.com for more information.

Why Do People Fish and Hunt?

Factors Related to the Recent Increases in Hunting and Fishing Participation

This study was administered by the American Sportfishing Association under Multi-State Conservation Grant F12AP00142 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
from The Fishing Wire

After two decades of decline, hunting and fishing participation among Americans increased between 2006 and 2011, and a recent major research study pinpoints 10 major reasons for the increases. Hunting and fishing participation rates are up due to: 1) the economic recession, 2) higher incomes among some segments of the population, 3) hunting for meat and the locavore movement, 4) agency recruitment and retention programs, 5) agency access programs, 6) agency marketing and changes in licenses, 7) current hunters and anglers participating more often, 8) returning military personnel, 9) re-engagement of lapsed hunters and anglers, and 10) new hunters and anglers, including female, suburban, and young participants.

The Background

Throughout the latter half of the 2000s, numerous state-level trend surveys conducted by Responsive Management consistently showed increases in hunting and fishing participation. Given this clear pattern emerging across multiple states and regions, in 2011 Responsive Management initiated a project with the American Sportfishing Association, Southwick Associates, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife under a Multi-State Conservation Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify and better understand factors related to increases in hunting and fishing participation throughout the United States.

“The fact that a variety of factors was responsible for the increases should not take away from the importance of each individual factor. The research isolated each of these factors as having a notable impact on the increase in hunting and fishing participation between 2006 and 2011.”

–Mark Damian Duda, Executive Director of Responsive Management

The Indicators

Two major data sources are available for measuring hunting and fishing participation trends on a national level: license sales data collected by the individual states and compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which are known as “Federal Aid” data, and the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, conducted every 5 years since 1955 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

At the time the grant proposal was submitted in 2011, the only available measurement supporting the research team’s hypothesis of a nationwide increase in hunting and fishing were Federal Aid data measuring license sales for the two activities from recent years; the other critical indicator, the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, had not yet been released. However, shortly after the grant was secured, results from the 2011 National Survey determined that, between 2006 and 2011, hunting participation among Americans increased 9% and fishing participation increased 11% nationwide.

The Research Methodology

With the evidence in hand, Responsive Management and its partners began implementing the study, which entailed a combination of quantitative and qualitative research components. To examine factors responsible for the upswing in hunting and fishing participation, the researchers collected data from multiple stakeholder sources, accounting for perspectives ranging from agency professionals to hunters and anglers themselves. Overall, the study methodology included a comprehensive review of past research examining hunting and fishing participation; personal interviews with and a survey of fish and wildlife agency personnel representing hunting, freshwater fishing, and saltwater fishing divisions; a multivariate analysis of national hunting and fishing license sales data; and a scientific telephone survey of hunters and anglers in the states with the most notable increases in participation between 2006 and 2011.1 For the telephone survey component, a total of 1,400 interviews were completed with hunters in seven states that saw some of the most growth in hunting during the period of interest (Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, and South Dakota) and anglers in seven states that experienced some of the largest increases in fishing participation over the same period (Alaska, Idaho, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington). The survey of hunters and anglers explored various demographic and behavioral characteristics of new and returning participants in the two activities and also measured the relative importance of various factors that influenced participants to either take breaks from or return to the activities.

The data were collected and analyzed over an 18-month period, with the results from each study component examined independently and as a whole. The overall data eventually revealed that hunting and fishing participation increased between 2006 and 2011 not because of a single major reason, but because of a combination of factors, a perfect positive storm of reasons ranging from nationwide economic conditions to efforts on the part of individual state agencies to the confluence of key participant groups entering or re-entering the sports. Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, notes, “The fact that a variety of factors was responsible for the increases should not take away from the importance of each individual factor. The research isolated each of these factors as having a substantial impact on the increase in hunting and fishing participation between 2006 and 2011.”

Reason 1: The Economic Recession

The study found a negative statistical correlation between hunting license sales and increases in housing starts–as housing starts decline, hunting participation increases.2 The mortgage crisis and economic recession that took hold of the country at the end of 2008 resulted in fewer housing starts as fewer building permits were issued. Because some of the top occupations of hunters include building-related fields (e.g., construction, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and craftsman), a disproportionate percentage of hunters were under- or unemployed during the period between 2006 and 2011, leaving them with more free time in which to hunt. This is in contrast to Responsive Management research conducted during the height of the housing boom, when many hunters were not hunting due to a lack of time because of work obligations.

Reason 2: Higher Incomes Among Some Segments of the Population

Interestingly, the research indicates that hunting and fishing increased because of both the lower end of the economic spectrum as well as the upper end: the multivariate analysis also identified a positive association between increasing per capita income and participation in one or both outdoor activities, suggesting a scenario where some hunters and anglers have more to spend and can thus afford to take more hunting and fishing trips.

Reason 3: Hunting for Meat and the Locavore Movement

Somewhat related to the country’s economic downturn was growth in the segment of sportsmen motivated to hunt or fish primarily for the food: the period between 2006 and 2011 saw an increase not only in the proportion of participants who hunted or fished as a means of putting meat on the family table, but also in the percentage of “locavore” hunters and anglers, that is, individuals who go afield for reasons of self-sufficiency and a desire for organic, local, chemical-free meat. When hunters in the survey were read a list of factors that may have influenced them to go hunting, the top factor that was a major or minor influence was interest in hunting as a source of natural or “green” food, with

Camp ASCCA, Creative Commons License

68% of hunters naming this as an influence. When a similar list was read to anglers, 51% said that fishing as a natural or “green” food source was an influence in their decision to go fishing. Finally, in an open-ended question (where no answer set was read and respondents could name anything that came to mind), 56% of hunters said that they hunted for food, and 32% of anglers fished for fresh fish to eat. The desire for food, whether for economic reasons, locavore motivations, or a hybrid of both, played an important role in the recent increases in hunting and fishing participation. (Click here for a summary of research examining the growing motivation of hunting for meat.)

Reasons 4 and 5: Agency Recruitment and Retention Programs and Access Programs

A few key efforts on the part of individual state fish and wildlife agencies also helped clear a path for more robust participation in hunting and fishing. Of particular importance was the implementation of hunting and fishing recruitment and retention programs, which provide instruction to participants of all age levels and, in many cases, offer program events year-round. After a decade of states’ implementation of recruitment and retention programs, the intended results are beginning to manifest. (Click here for more information about Responsive Management research on recruitment and retention programs.)

More hunters also made it into the field thanks to programs that opened up access to hunting lands: the analysis revealed that the percentage of hunters in the state rating the quality of overall access to hunting lands as excellent or good had a positive effect on participation. Access is one of the most important issues that acts as a constraint to hunters; when access is good, participation is unimpeded. With ample research on the potential value in these types of programs having been conducted in recent years, the study was able to show definitively that these efforts are now taking effect and producing results. (For more information, please visit Responsive Management’s summaries of research on hunting and fishing access.)

Reason 6: Agency Marketing and Changes in Licenses

Many agencies in the survey and personal interviews emphasized the importance of their marketing efforts in recent years, not only for programs designed to boost participation but in the advertising of new or repackaged hunting and fishing licenses. Additionally, hunters and anglers were also asked about factors that prompted them to hunt and fish. Among hunters, 22% said that marketing efforts collectively had been an influence in their decision to go hunting. Among anglers, 20% said that marketing had been an influence in their decision to go fishing.

The marketing aspect of efforts to increase sales of hunting and fishing licenses dovetails with previous Responsive Management research that has established a correlation between increases in license sales and changes in license structure (i.e., the availability of new or modified hunting and fishing licenses). Such changes, which can include repackaging of licenses or a recombination of various privileges, can have the effect of marketing because the hunter and/or angler may perceive that a better deal is available, that the license is “new and improved,” or he or she may simply be reminded of the opportunities to hunt and fish.

Reasons 7 to 10: Key Groups Driving the Increases

In pinpointing the specific markets that helped drive the increases in hunting and fishing participation, the survey was able to isolate several groups of particular importance: current and longtime hunters and anglers simply participating more often, returning military personnel resuming their participation in the activities, the reactivation of former and lapsed hunters and anglers, and new female participants.

The project examined the characteristics of these new and returning hunters and anglers. Crosstabulations of established hunters and new/returning hunters highlighted some differences that help reveal who the new/returning hunters are. Compared to established hunters, these new/returning hunters are slightly more often female, are somewhat younger, are more often in the military or college, are slightly more suburban, have not been living in the same state for as long, and are more often hunting to be with friends.

Michael J Zealot, Creative Commons License

Likewise, compared to established anglers, the group of new/returning anglers again are slightly more often female, are markedly more often retired with new free time, are slightly more often identifying themselves as homemakers, are slightly more suburban, have not been living in the same state for as long, and are more devoted to fishing in freshwater (i.e., did not fish in saltwater as much as established anglers–because anglers could fish in both types of waters, established anglers fished in freshwater about as much as new/returning anglers, but they fished in saltwater much more often than did new/returning anglers).

The full report for the study is available by clicking here or by visiting
www.responsivemanagement.com/download/reports/Hunt_Fish_Increase_Report.pdf.
Responsive Management is planning additional research to continue exploring the impacts of each of the factors and variables uncovered in this study.

Study Methodology

Personal interviews with state fish and wildlife agency personnel.
Surveys of fish and wildlife agency staff regarding hunting and fishing participation and license sales data for hunting, freshwater fishing, and saltwater fishing.
Multivariate analysis of license sales data.
Review of past research on hunting and fishing participation.
A survey of hunters and anglers in states with large hunting or fishing participation increases according to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
Final evaluation and analysis of all data together and completion of final report.
States surveyed with marked hunting participation increases: Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, and South Dakota.
States surveyed with marked fishing participation increases: Alaska, Idaho, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington.

Plan To Keep Biscayne National Park Open To Boating and Fishing

National Park Service Offers Plan to Keep Biscayne National Park Open to Boating and Fishing
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s feature comes to us from the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).
from The Outdoor Wire

Preferred plan addresses many of the concerns expressed by the boating and fishing communities

Alexandria, VA – Last week, the National Park Service announced a supplemental General Management Plan (GMP) for Biscayne National Park that marks an important step towards balancing the need for public access while addressing resource concerns. The park’s new preferred plan addresses many of the concerns from the recreational boating and fishing communities contained in the original 2011 GMP proposals.

Located adjacent to Miami, Fla., Biscayne National Park is the largest marine park in the National Park system and one of the country’s largest urban recreational fishing areas. The park’s updated plan is the result of lengthy discussions among the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Park Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration along with significant input by the boating and fishing communities.

The new preferred alternative eliminates a 10,000 acre marine reserve which was a significant point of contention for the boating and fishing communities. The new preferred plan instead establishes a 14,585 acre special recreation zone along a portion of the park’s reef tract in which fishing would be allowed year round with a special permit. The plan also includes a long-term research and monitoring program to inform adaptive management of the zone. Recreational fishing and boating is still permitted in nearly all of the remainder of the park under state and federal rules and regulations.

Previous proposals would also have established significant non-combustion engine zones along the coastline which would have unnecessarily restricted boating access. The preferred plan removes those zones and instead, includes slow-speed and no-wake zones.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the broader boating and fishing communities, have worked to bolster awareness surrounding the Park Service’s proposed GMP which initially set out to close up to 20 percent of boating and fishing access in Biscayne National Park. The boating and fishing communities were joined last year by Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio who signed a joint letter expressing concern to then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. NMMA and ASA will participate in the public comment period for the supplemental GMP.

NMMA President Thom Dammrich notes, “NMMA is optimistic that this plan properly balances the need for resource conservation and robust boating and angling access. We look forward to working with NPS to protect the access granted to boaters and anglers and are pleased to see progress. NMMA will remain an active participant in this ongoing discussion, and will be vigilant in ensuring that the steps we’ve taken forward are not lost as the plan continues to take shape.”

ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman said, “The recreational fishing industry is pleased that all the agencies involved in the Biscayne National Park debate were able to come together and identify productive management solutions that still allow for public access while addressing resource concerns. We look forward to working with the Park Service to ensure that the public is allowed reasonable and sustainable access to these public waters.”

A copy of Biscayne National Park’s General Management Plan/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement is available here (http://parkplanning.nps.gov/parkHome.cfm?parkID=353&CFID=1733569&CFTOKEN=2a2287402d23c433-3EAA1517-E05E-83C3-96F6470AD3697DDE&). A series of public hearings are planned for December 2013.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is the leading association representing the recreational boating industry in North America. NMMA member companies produce more than 80 percent of the boats, engines, trailers, accessories and gear used by boaters and anglers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The association is dedicated to industry growth through programs in public policy advocacy, market statistics and research, product quality assurance and promotion of the boating lifestyle.

No Federal Fish Hatchery Closings for Now

FWS: No Hatchery Closing, For Now
from The Outdoor Wire
Etta Pettijohn

Since media reports revealed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) plans to quietly shutter several federal fish hatcheries in 2014, the agency has backed off from those plans – but not from closing them in the future.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander expressed disappointment and concern after reviewing the agency’s “Strategic Hatchery and Workforce Planning Report,” and conversations with FWS Director Dan Ashe.

“It is fortunate that we have an ongoing three-year agreement between the Tennessee Valley Authority and state and federal wildlife agencies to keep Tennessee’s hatcheries open and producing fish, but the threat of closure still exists,” said Alexander, who has two federal hatcheries in his district.

Plans to eliminate mitigation hatcheries from the FWS mission began in the mid- 1990s, but media attention and political pressure blocked those moves. Beginning in 2011, the agency intensified its efforts, despite Congressional mandates, presidential decrees encouraging outdoor activity, and public support for the facilities.

In 2012 the FWS slashed funding for mitigation hatcheries from its FY 2013 budget, hoping to hand management and funding to other agencies. The FWS attempted it again in 2012, but Congress forced it to finance them that year, directing the agency to secure other federal funding before defunding of the nine then targeted for closure.

Despite all this, by all appearances, agency officials remain determined to close hatcheries and direct its funding and priorities in recovery of endangered and threatened species, restoration of tribal trust responsibilities, and other propagation programs for native species.

FWS officials cited budget cuts in 2012, although Rick Nehrling, a retired 38-year veteran of the FWS (19 spent overseeing southeastern hatcheries) asserts that budget documents clearly indicate Fisheries is the only resource program in the agency the Directorate proposed for reductions then, and planned closures in FY 2012 and FY 2013.

“The other five resource programs (National Wildlife Refuge System, Endangered Species, etc.) have all had substantial budget increases during the same time period,” Nehrling contended.

Now FWS is saying if sequestration continues into the 2014 fiscal year, the agency will have lost close to $6 million for hatchery operations since 2012.

“This report sounds the alarm on a hatchery system unable to meet its mission responsibilities in the current budget climate,” Director Ashe has stated.

It appears the new agency mantra is “sequestration will require the hatchery closures.”

Ashe said the 2012 “Strategic Hatchery and Workforce Planning Report,” found ongoing budget reductions due to sequestration and increasing costs for operations spurred the review of the 70 national hatcheries.

“This report sounds the alarm on a hatchery system unable to meet its mission and responsibilities in the current budget climate,” Ashe asserted. “In the coming months through the 2015 budget process, I have directed the Service to work with all of our partners to determine whether the options identified in the report, or others, are necessary and appropriate to put the system on a more sustainable financial footing.”

A working group trying to come up with answers includes the FWS, the TVA, and the Tennessee and Georgia state wildlife agencies. TVA signed an agreement with federal and state wildlife agencies in May to pay more than $900,000 per year for the next three years to replace fish killed by TVA dams, and keep Tennessee’s hatcheries producing fish while the working group develops a permanent solution, said Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander.

“I will help to find a long-term solution, because the nearly 900,000 Tennesseans and visitors who buy fishing licenses in our state depend upon these hatcheries, as they are the principal reason Tennessee has some of the best trout fishing in the country,” said Alexander, who in 2012 brokered a deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to provide some of the funding for the hatcheries there.

Meanwhile, insiders report the battle is merely delayed, and far from over, and that the agency has full intentions to end its century-old mission of mitigation stocking, an effort that many communities where these are located are dependent on for fishing license sales and sales tax revenue.

Do Red Snapper Provide Protein For America?

Protein for America?

By Ted Venker

Early in October, news came that more than 130 chefs, restaurant owners, fishermen and seafood industry leaders had partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund to launch a new propaganda campaign called “Share the Gulf.” The goal of this benignly labeled effort is to maintain 51 percent of the red snapper harvest for commercial fishermen and 49 percent to recreational fishermen – an allocation that was set using harvest data from the mid-1980s.

Red Snapper

Red Snapper

Sportfishermen say there are more big red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico today than there have been in decades, maybe in generations–but they’re not happy about a commercial fishing campaign to take away a portion of the share allocated to recreational anglers. (Photo Credit David Rainer, Alabama DCNR)

Coalition members maintain that any change to allocation could be a blow to commercial fishermen that could take red snapper off restaurant menus and out of grocery stores. Keep in mind, this is an allocation literally set about 30 years ago in a very different time with a very different stock.

“We need to draw a line in the sand,” John Schmidt, a Florida-based commercial fisherman and co-chairman of the coalition, said in a recent article. “Recreation groups need to stop taking away America’s fish and start managing their fish better.”

Just chew on that thought for a moment: Recreational angling groups are taking away America’s fish. Then consider that the commercial red snapper sector is currently comprised of less than 400 “shareholders” who personally own 51 percent of all the red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.

A bit infuriating, isn’t it?

Those 400 shareholders didn’t pay a dime when they were gifted that public resource through the federal catch share program in 2007, a gift recently valued by one Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council member at more than $79 million. Those shareholders to this day don’t pay enough in administrative fees to cover the cost of monitoring their own program. Many of them don’t even fish anymore and instead lease their shares to others to fish for them.

Yet those 400 shareholders are demanding America’s recreational anglers – me, you, my kids, your friends and family – stop taking away “America’s fish.” Who exactly would we taking those fish away from? Why, the people making money from the capture and sale of a public marine resource, of course – those few shareholders, some chefs, and a few seafood dealers.

Red snapper are a long-lived species and take some time to reach maximum sizes, but tight harvest rules seem to have worked very well in the Gulf over the last decade.

The commercial sector does offer a different view of the situation. The snapper barons who own 51 percent of the red snapper resource are quick to tell anyone who listens that they are feeding America with those snapper. It is not uncommon at a Gulf Council meeting to hear several of them state the importance of their work providing protein for America. Providing fresh red snapper for the millions of people who don’t live near the coast and don’t go fishing.

That’s a noble sentiment until you start to do the math on exactly how many Americans are turning to red snapper fillets that often run as high as $18 to $20 per pound for their daily protein. How many families of six on a budget pass by the hamburger and choose a $100 snapper dinner instead? How many Americans depend on that weekly visit to a five-star New Orleans restaurant with white tablecloths to feed their family vital protein?

Let’s be real here. These folks are not providing protein for America. They’re providing protein for a very few Americans. And they’ve gotten very wealthy doing it.

Given that, it is easy to understand the very real influence of greed on the part of the snapper barons in this coalition, but less clear is the motivation of the chefs and restaurant owners. I would assume that they don’t have the full picture here. As business owners and professionals removed from the front lines of fisheries management, I would be willing to bet they aren’t completely tuned in to the politics of the Gulf red snapper fishery.

Those chefs and restaurant owners who depend on the good will of the public may not realize that there are far fewer commercial red snapper fishermen today than there have ever been, and yet they are currently harvesting more red snapper than the commercial sector ever has. No one is close to getting run out of business – far from it. Through consolidation and the gift of a public resource, the remaining snapper barons have a degree of job security that most in this country would envy.

And like good business owners, the shareholders are looking to diversify. One of the primary motivations behind their efforts in this coalition to prevent reallocation is not to provide more protein for America (at $20 per pound), but to have the ability to lease some of their red snapper shares to recreational charter/for-hire boats and headboats.

One of the tastiest fish in the sea, the red snapper is a favorite with reef fishermen from Key West to Brownsville, Texas.

Ironically, the shareholders who are chastising recreational anglers to stop taking away America’s fish are banking on schemes under discussion at the Gulf Council to allow them to lease their red snapper shares to … recreational anglers. If the Gulf Council reallocates, it may dampen the market for leasing their red snapper shares to the recreational sector.

Perhaps the chefs and restaurant owners weren’t made fully aware of that little detail.

Lastly, there is the Environmental Defense Fund which is often found lurking somewhere in the background of any plan that may result in fewer people on the water catching red snapper. EDF has poured millions into threatening the sportsmen’s ethic of wildlife management in the marine environment in pursuit of its distorted view of conservation.

The latest result is a coalition of 400 wealthy shareholders who are in it for the money, a few chefs and restaurant owners who are risking the wrath of the sporting public because they may not be aware of the real game here, and an environmental group that made the bizarre decision to champion the industrial gear of the commercial fishing sector against America’s sportsmen.

No wonder Gulf red snapper is such a mess.

The next Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting is in New Orleans Oct. 28- Nov. 1. Many local supporters of the “Share the Gulf” campaign are expected to be on hand to make sure “America’s recreational anglers stop taking away America’s fish.” If you are an American angler, perhaps you should be there, too…so that the Council hears a slightly different point of view.

Government Shut Down and Fishing

Anglers and the Sportfishing Industry Are Falling Prey to the Federal Government Shutdown

Today’s feature is a commentary on the Federal government shutdown from the American Sport Fishing Association.
from The Fishing Wire

Industry urges resolution to government shutdown that is crippling fisheries access and conservation

Millions of anglers are now locked out of federal lands and waters and thousands of small businesses are suffering because Congress and the Administration can’t agree on the nation’s finances.

According to the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), federal agencies across the nation are warning anglers that they are not permitted to use public waters managed by the federal government during the federal shutdown. A statement from one federal land management agency says, “…facilities and lands are now closed to the public and public use activities have been suspended nationwide.”

“This is ludicrous,” said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. “We understand that public facilities that require staffing, such as buildings and federally-operated marinas and hatcheries, are not open and that federal employees are not permitted to operate these facilities. But let’s face it, most of the federal areas used by anglers are undeveloped and the recreational user typically visits them many times without seeing a federal employee of any type.”

Robertson further said, “We know that many of the complaints being voiced to the Department of Interior are from angry anglers who have planned trips, spent money on plane tickets, guides, lodging and new equipment who now can’t make their trip.”

As the stalemate between the Administration and Congress continues, the damage to the recreation industry mounts. Federally-controlled waters have a sportfishing community support system that is comprised of lodging facilities, restaurants, guide services and bait and tackle shops, just to name a few of the services used by anglers. Sportfishing in the United States on federal lands supports more than 100,000 jobs, providing $984 million in federal taxes to the federal government and contributing $13.8 billion to the nation’s economy each year.

“The public knows where staff is needed to manage facilities and developed areas and where they are not,” continued Robertson. “More baffling are statements from federal agencies saying that law enforcement staff will be on hand to enforce the closure of these waters during this federal shutdown. For example, law enforcement staff in areas like Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park will be on hand to stop the public from entering park waters during the federal shutdown. Attempting to ban the public from areas of the ocean due to budgetary restrictions – while paying law enforcement officers to enforce the ban – defies logic and can only be viewed as intentionally burdensome. Where will the closures stop? Will the federal government close down the oceans’ entire exclusive economic zone too?”

Aside from the edict from the federal government that all federally owned waters are closed to anglers and all outdoor enthusiasts, the impacts to conservation are considerable. Every day that passes represents approximately $2 million that doesn’t get spent on fisheries conservation and federal fish hatcheries that don’t meet their schedules for fish production. Not to mention the inability of thousands of federal conservation employees to do their job and an even greater number of volunteer fishery conservation efforts that fall by the wayside. The cost to fishery conservation is incalculable.

“Many segments of the economy are being damaged by the failure to come to agreement over the nation’s finances and the recreation community is not exempt,” concluded Robertson. “The American Sportfishing Association encourages anglers to go to www.KeepAmericaFishing.org and send a letter to their Members of Congress saying it is time to stop the shutdown and get the nation back on its financial track so resource conservation can move forward and the public can once again enjoy its public trust lands.”

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The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry’s trade association committed to representing the interests of the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry a unified voice, speaking out on behalf of sportfishing and boating industries, state and federal natural resource agencies, conservation organizations, angler advocacy groups and outdoor journalists when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. ASA invests in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous, as well as safeguard and promote the enduring social, economic and conservation values of sportfishing in America. ASA also gives America’s 60 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation’s waterways through KeepAmericaFishing™, our angler advocacy campaign. America’s anglers generate over $48 billion in retail sales with a $115 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for more than 828,000 people.