Overview of the issue

The TRCP is strongly committed to working with its partners and with lawmakers to continue to make progress on improving federal laws and policies that govern recreational fisheries. Recreational saltwater fisheries have historically been underrepresented in federal fisheries management, creating frustration on the part of marine anglers. The TRCP and its partners have worked closely with the National Marine Fisheries Service and state fisheries managers to help ease some of those frustrations and make concise, positive, conservation-based recommendations that will help laws and policies and those who pass and enact those laws and policies become more considerate of the culture and economics of marine recreational fisheries. As congress moves toward the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 2017, the TRCP’s commitment to ensuring access to quality fisheries opportunities that emphasize resource conservation has never been stronger or more important.

The TRCP, American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, and many other organizations worked together in 2015 and 2016 to organize workshops with state and federal fisheries management experts, biologists, conservation groups and law and policy makers to identify alternative management approaches that can be incorporated into federal fisheries management. The goal of identifying and working to incorporate alternative management approaches is to continue to conserve fisheries resources while allowing for more consistent access for anglers. Identifying alternative management approaches is one of six recommendations made in the landmark 2014 report “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.” The report was the result of an effort by the TRCP and its sportfishing partners to organize and host a series of meetings for the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, a group of the nation’s foremost state and federal fisheries management experts. The commission was chaired by Bass Pro Shops CEO Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats CEO and President Scott Deal. The six recommendations in the report include: establishing a national policy for recreational saltwater fishing, adopting a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management, allocating marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation, creating reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines, codifying a process for cooperative management, managing the forage base. Within two months of the Marine Vision report’s release, The National Marine Fisheries Service announced it would work with anglers throughout 2014 and beyond to develop, release and refine a national policy for saltwater recreational fisheries and credited the Marine Vision report for being the primary driving force behind that effort. The NMFS National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy was released in February 2015.

Why do we care?

Recreational saltwater fishing is a vital part of the culture and economy of coastal communities across the nation. More than 11 million American sportsmen participate in saltwater angling annually. Generating more than $70 billion in economic activity and supporting more than 450,000 jobs. However, saltwater angling has never been managed to maximize conservation and opportunity by federal law and policy. Instead of recognizing the fundamental differences between recreational fishing and commercial harvest, federal law and policy generally manages the two activities the same. This management approach has led to frustration and distrust of federal fisheries management among anglers. It has also resulted in attempts to privatize access to the fish by spreading individual quota management programs from commercial fishing into recreational management. The TRCP and its partners believe recreational fishing and commercial fishing are fundamentally different activities that require different management approaches. We also believe fish are a public trust resource that should managed for the benefit of all Americans.