Chris Macaluso

July 26, 2021

Expert Panel Discusses Gulf Menhaden Management

TRCP gathered conservation leaders, fisheries managers, fishing businesses, and media to talk about gulf menhaden management and the industrial menhaden reduction fishery’s impact on recreational fishing

Menhaden—also known as pogies in the Gulf—are essential forage fish for redfish, speckled trout, and many other culturally important gamefish throughout the region. Meanwhile, the industrial menhaden reduction fishery is the largest fishery by volume in the Gulf of Mexico. Two foreign-owned companies harvest about 1.2 billion pounds of menhaden annually using purse seine nets and large ships of 160-200 feet in length. The fish are “reduced” and used for a variety of products including fish feed for foreign fish farms, livestock feed, and cosmetics.

This high volume of harvest is largely unregulated. There are no catch limits in place and observer coverage is virtually non-existent. Preliminary indications from an examination of the menhaden fishery by the University of Florida and NOAA show a significant effect on sportfish—as much as a 50-percent reduction in speckled trout and redfish biomass—from industrial menhaden harvest in the Gulf.

This is why we gathered media and conservation leaders attending ICAST to discuss improving menhaden management in the Gulf and reducing the impacts of the industrial reduction fishery.

Speakers included Dr. Aaron Adams, director of science and conservation at Bonefish and Tarpon Trust; Richard Fischer, executive director of the Louisiana Charterboat Association; Jesse Simpkins, vice president of marketing for St. Croix Rods; and Mike Waine, Atlantic fisheries policy director at the American Sportfishing Association.

Here’s what you need to know:

An estimated 80 to 90 percent of the Gulf pogie harvest takes place off Louisiana’s coast, with roughly 20 to 30 percent of that catch occurring in the shallow surf zone near beaches and barrier islands—ecologically sensitive areas where heavy bycatch is more likely.

Up to 60 million pounds of bycatch is lost each year as a result of reduction fishing in the Gulf, including hundreds of thousands of redfish, speckled trout, jacks, mackerels, and tarpon as well as crabs, mullet, shrimp, herring, and other vital forage. A 2016 analysis of Gulf menhaden fishing bycatch on redfish conducted by NOAA reported as many as 1.1 million pounds of redfish are killed annually, including tens of thousands of brood stock fish between 10 and 35 pounds.

The Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana, the TRCP, and a host of other fisheries and wildlife conservation groups—including the National Marine Manufacturers Association, American Sportfishing Association, Audubon Louisiana, Pew, the Louisiana Charterboat Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Wild Oceans, Angler Action Network, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, International Gamefish Association, Fly Fishers International, the Billfish Foundation, and Menhaden Defenders—have formed a coalition to support conservation measures.

This includes creating a model of ecological management for Gulf menhaden fishing like what has been recently implemented by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Ecological management would take into consideration the role that pogies play as forage for sportfish, marine mammals, and birds, as well as the capacity for pogies to filter and clean water. It would also examine the impacts the reduction fishery has on habitat and require a management authority, like the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, to set and enforce catch limits.

The coalition is also pushing for a buffer zone off Louisiana’s beaches and barrier islands of at least one-half mile where reduction fishing would be prohibited. Louisiana legislator Rep. Joe Orgeron introduced a bill in April 2020 that would have created a half-mile buffer off most of Louisiana’s coast and a one-mile buffer off areas heavily used by recreational anglers. The bill passed the Louisiana House but was amended by the state Senate and ultimately failed to become law. The coalition will continue to work with the state legislature and other law and policy bodies to implement commonsense conservation measures for the Gulf menhaden fishery.

Learn more about menhaden and how these important baitfish drive sportfishing here. 

 

Top photo courtesy of Oceana/Carlos Suarez via Flickr.

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Chris Macaluso

July 22, 2021

Expert Panel Discusses Possible Impacts of 30×30 on Recreational Fishing

TRCP gathered conservation leaders, fisheries managers, fishing businesses, and media at ICAST to discuss the Biden Administration’s proposal to conserve 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030

The TRCP and the conservation community at large have been highly engaged in helping shape
efforts to further protect America’s fish and wildlife habitat, focused especially on the effort to
conserve 30 percent of the nation’s land and water by the year 2030, commonly referred to as 30×30. This is why we gathered media and conservation leaders attending ICAST to discuss 30×30’s potential impact on recreational fishing with the help of an expert panel.

Panelists included: Janet Coit, the assistant administrator for fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Marc Gorelnik, chairman of the Pacific Fishery Management Council and general counsel for the American Sportfishing Association; Chris Horton, senior director of Midwestern states and fisheries policy at the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation; and Jessica McCawley, director of the division of marine fisheries management at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Here’s what you need to know:

More than 40 conservation and hunting and fishing advocacy groups joined together in 2020 to
create an effort to ensure that hunters and anglers are involved partners in 30×30, that critical fish and game habitat will be prioritized, and that access for outdoor recreation will continue. Hunters and anglers have always been at the forefront of land and water conservation with more than $65 billion generated for conservation since 1939.

“We’ve always been about conservation in the hunting and fishing community,” said Horton. “We’re all in, provided that hunting and fishing are recognized as compatible uses of our resources.”

In January, President Biden issued Executive Order 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Section 216 called for identifying steps to conserve at least 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030. Currently, it’s estimated that as much as 23 percent of the nation’s oceans and 13 percent of lands are already protected.

The recreational fishing community has worked aggressively with staff to help shape this effort and provided comments to the Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce. Past presidential administrations have created large ocean monuments that initially restricted recreational fishing. Legislation introduced in California in February 2020 initially could have made recreational fishing and other recreational activities off limits in large areas of the state. But recreational advocacy groups were able to add language that recognized the importance of access for recreational activities before the law passed in late 2020.

“Conservation is a goal, and protection is a means of achieving that goal,” said Gorelnik. “To some stakeholders protection is a goal to be reached through denial of access… There’s a place we can meet where we can have responsible access while also protecting biodiversity.”

Comments submitted to NOAA in March by a host of sportfishing and boating groups insisted that 30×30 efforts include:

  • Recognition of the positive role that hunting and fishing play in conservation
  • Protected area definitions that allow for well-managed and sustainable wildlife-dependent
    activities
  • Consideration of existing protected areas in measuring progress toward stated goals
  • Targeted, science-based conservation measures developed through a stakeholder-driven
    process to address biodiversity threats
  • Clearly defined roles and authorities for the entities charged with carrying out the 30×30
    initiative

This advocacy has paid off. Released May 6, the administration’s 30×30 report entitled “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful” specifically recognizes “the contributions and stewardship traditions of America’s hunters, anglers, and fishing communities,” as well as the benefits of healthy lands and waters to jobs and the outdoor recreation economy.

“We are pleasantly surprised and cautiously optimistic that hunting and fishing will continue to be in a leadership position advancing the goals of the 30 by 30 effort,” said Chris Macaluso, TRCP’s marine fisheries director. But the work continues for conservation groups, the administration, and Congress as specific details of what protection means and how it will be achieved are developed.

Learn more about the 30 by 30 initiative and the role of hunters and anglers here.

Take action now to ensure that hunters and anglers have a seat at the table as 30×30 is planned.

 

Photo by RimLight Media.

Melinda Kassen

July 20, 2021

10 Strategies to Better Balance Water Supply Needs in a Drought-Stressed Colorado River Basin

The future of hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation businesses will rely on implementing these meaningful water conservation, habitat improvement, and agricultural practices

The Colorado River Basin is once again facing scary hot and dry conditions this summer. The current Drought Monitor shows most of the Western U.S. in significant drought, but the Southwest looks the worst:

For the Colorado River Basin, this year is like many since 2002—a period that scientists are now calling the Millennium Drought. About 40 million people rely on this system for drinking water, while most Americans eat vegetables produced in the region’s fields. Many of us also take joyful advantage of hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation across the Basin’s vast public lands, including ten national parks.

For all of us, the fact that the Colorado’s large storage reservoirs are only about one-third full is cause for alarm and a reminder that the changing climate has real consequences—for tourism, outdoor recreation businesses, agriculture, and American homes. As a result of agreements reached over the course of the last 15 years, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will formally make a water shortage declaration later this year that will require substantial reductions in water deliveries, mostly in Arizona.

A new report, Ten Strategies for Climate Resilience in the Colorado River Basin, offers a set of actions that would allow those who live in or rely on the Basin to adapt, reduce pressure on water supplies, and strengthen local economies, all while building climate resilience. These actions, which range from the proven to the emerging and theoretical, would take the Basin well beyond the important water conservation and recycling measures that cities in the Basin have already initiated. And for each strategy, the report identifies potential sources of funding, although significantly more investment will be necessary.

These strategies include:

  • Prioritizing forest management and restoration to maintain system functionality and biodiversity
  • Restoring highly degraded natural meadow systems to improve local aquifer recharge and water retention, reconnect historic floodplains, and support productive meadows and riparian ecosystems
  • Promoting regenerative agriculture—voluntary farming and ranching principles and practices that enrich soils, enhance biodiversity, restore watershed health, and improve overall ecosystem function while boosting local communities
  • Upgrading on-farm infrastructure and operations, including water diversion, delivery, and irrigation systems
  • Developing cropping alternatives—like shifting to crops that use less water—and market and supply chain interventions to incentivize water conservation
  • Incentivizing water conservation and reuse in urban areas by promoting conservation technologies, indoor and outdoor conservation programs, and direct and indirect potable reuse
  • Incentivizing modifications and upgrades to reduce water use and increase energy efficiency
  • Purchasing or reallocating water rights from closed or retiring coal plants to be used for system or environmental benefits or other uses
  • Improving land management practices to reduce the dust on snow effect, which controls the pace of spring snowmelt that feeds the headwaters of the Colorado River
  • Implementing solutions to reduce evaporation from reservoirs and conveyance systems

Implementation of these strategies may be challenging and will require change. For example, multiple federal agencies that usually operate in their own silos would have to work together. It will also be important to involve state, local, and tribal governments and to make clear that, when it comes to strategies that may be deployed on private lands, they are voluntary measures—not mandates. Still, taken together, these strategies may help preserve agricultural viability in the Southwest into the future.

Decision-makers will need to weigh the costs, technical feasibility, and political will for moving bold actions like these strategies forward. However, with the president and Congress considering major investments in America’s infrastructure, there can be no better time to secure financial and policy support for these measures.

But we as sportsmen and sportswomen must be engaged in this process. Our ability to advance significant improvements in the management of the Colorado River system thus far is a testament to the power of partnerships. And the hunting, fishing, and conservation community—including the nonprofits behind this report—is prepared to dig in with the Basin’s private landowners, local communities, and government officials at every level to take the next steps. Together, we must adapt the system to a changing climate and build toward long-term climate resilience, while looking out for our fish, wildlife, and economy along the way.

Randall Williams

July 15, 2021

TRCP Applauds New Path Forward for the Tongass

USDA to restore conservation safeguards and invest in sustainable economic development in Southeast Alaska

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership celebrated today’s news that the Forest Service will pursue a new management approach for 9.2 million acres of public land in Southeast Alaska that will prioritize the region’s biggest economic engines, local values, and overwhelming public opinion.

Pairing the restoration of conservation safeguards with new, robust investments in the region’s economic development, the decision was welcomed by local communities and various stakeholders as a balanced solution that promises a sustainable future for a region widely regarded as some of the richest fish and wildlife habitat in Alaska. Among other things, USDA’s new strategy will reverse of one of last year’s biggest conservation setbacks and ensure that the Tongass National Forest will remain an iconic hunting and fishing destination.

“Today’s development marks a major step toward restoring conservation safeguards and shifting to more sustainable forest management practices on the Tongass National Forest,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We appreciate this leadership by USDA, and look forward to the timely reinstatement of the Roadless Rule on the Tongass, which will conserve some of Alaska’s most productive fish and wildlife habitat while also allowing for community development projects and cultural uses.”

Roadless Rule protections were rolled back in 2020 despite overwhelming public opposition to the exemption.

The USDA is anticipated to outline several key steps it will take moving forward:

  • The FS will start the process to repeal the Roadless Rule exemption and reinstate full protections under the 2001 Roadless Rule.
  • The Tongass NF will end large-scale old-growth timber sales, but will allow Alaska Natives and small-scale operators to continue limited old-growth harvest.
  • $25 million in new funding will be dedicated to community development projects that enhance recreation, restoration and resilience, including climate, wildlife habitat, and watershed improvements.

“The industries that contribute the most to Southeast Alaska’s economy—such as commercial fishing, recreation, and tourism—rely on the conservation of our remaining old-growth forests and watersheds within the Tongass,” said Jen Leahy, Alaska field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It’s exciting to see the Forest Service invest in new strategies that align with the values and priorities of rural Alaskans. The TRCP is committed to helping the Forest Service manage the Tongass in a way that conserves vital fish and wildlife habitat, allows for sustainable second growth forest management, and boosts the resiliency of our communities.”

Photo Credit: Ben Matthews

Randall Williams

July 13, 2021

Hunters and Anglers Unveil Vision for National Wildlife Refuges

Leading conservation groups and industry brands release report with recommendations for the future of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service-managed public lands

A new report from 32 hunting- and fishing-related conservation organizations and businesses celebrates the successes of the National Wildlife Refuge System in supporting species conservation and outdoor recreation, and outlines twelve key principles that should guide its management and future proposals for its expansion. This comes as hunters and anglers are enjoying new opportunities on national wildlife refuges, and as the administration continues to define its conservation priorities.

“President Theodore Roosevelt, who more than anyone recognized the inextricable connection between conservation and hunting, established the first National Wildlife Refuge in 1903 at Pelican Island,” said Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute. “Continuing in that proud tradition, I was privileged to serve as the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the 100th anniversary of the refuge system and throughout my tenure worked to encourage hunting and fishing programs on these lands, for which Roosevelt cared so deeply. In opening our refuges to more Americans and planning for expanded opportunities throughout the system, the Fish and Wildlife Service continues to carry out an important mission that is essential to the future of hunting and fishing—as well as that of conservation—in this country.”

According to the report, “strategic and locally supported expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge System would help to provide all Americans with increased access to nature regardless of their income or background, to conserve biodiversity, and to sustain fish and wildlife habitat connectivity.”

“Sportsmen and sportswomen have been the National Wildlife Refuge System’s earliest advocates, most outspoken supporters, and most generous contributors, which helps explain why our community has such a strong investment in building on the system’s proven framework,” said Christy Plumer, chief policy officer for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defines the future of the refuge system—including the potential expansion of refuges—we see an opportunity to ensure that the system continues to benefit numerous species as well as public fishing and hunting.”

Recent events make the report’s release particularly timely. In 2019 and 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service increased hunting and fishing opportunities on a combined 4 million acres within the refuge system, and the agency recently proposed expanded opportunities on an additional 2.1 million acres. Then, in March 2021, several federal agencies released “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful,” which outlines a ten-year roadmap for conserving at least 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030. Specifically mentioned is a recommendation to work “with States, local communities, and others to explore where there is support to enhance the National Wildlife Refuge System.”

“Not only does the National Wildlife Refuge System conserve irreplaceable habitat for trout and salmon, these public lands also offer world class angling opportunities. Strengthening the refuge system is crucial to help make fish and wildlife populations more resilient to the effects of climate change,” said Corey Fisher, public lands policy director with Trout Unlimited. “This report provides constructive guideposts for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enhance the refuge system for future generations, and this needs to be coupled with a commitment from Congress to ensure that the agency has the resources and funding necessary to steward wildlife refuges across the nation.”

At the report’s core are recommendations in the form of twelve tenets that, if followed, would help generate broad support from the hunting and fishing community for proposed new or expanded refuges. These principles address concerns ranging from public access and sporting opportunities to state fish and wildlife management authority, as well as funding and administrative priorities.

“Durable land conservation requires open dialogue, strong partnerships, and an interest in finding common ground,” said John Gale, conservation director for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Hunters and anglers are proven collaborators, and there is a need for our community to remain at the table to help shape a future for the National Wildlife Refuge System that we and others can call a success.”

The report includes feature profiles of four refuges within the system that offer diverse opportunities for hunters and anglers and explains some of the history and characteristics that make these landscapes unique. The voices of local sportsmen and sportswomen help to explain the value of each refuge to nearby communities in places ranging from rural southwest Wyoming to the urban spaces of greater Detroit, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio.

“Among all of our public lands, national wildlife refuges play an important role in providing Americans access to the outdoors, and include outstanding deer habitats throughout the country,” said Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of the National Deer Association. “Sportsmen and sportswomen have a profound appreciation for the opportunities provided by the refuge system and there can be no doubt that the hunting community will speak up to ensure this legacy lives on for future generations.”

See the full list of policy recommendations and read the report at TRCP.org/refuges.

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