The NOAA wants you to provide some public input on recreational saltwater fisheries.
Understanding the policies used to manage our natural resources is one of the core attributes of a responsible outdoor activities enthusiast. Management, at both the federal and state level, provides valuable guidance and data used to ensure that generations to come can continue to enjoy the same opportunities to hunt, fish, hike, camp, canoe, and generally experience the great outdoors that we’ve had.
Part of respecting the outdoors is protecting it, engaging it not only as individuals but as equal partners with the rest of the citizenry that have an interest in careful stewardship.
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Fisheries management represents one of the more challenging areas of oversight, since access to the field sites is necessarily limited by the environment. Collecting population data on deer or wolves, while no small feat, pales in comparison to gauging accurate numbers of grouper or marlin, for instance, sequestered as they are in the depths.
Additionally, the biology and ecology of marine organisms is often considerably less understood than terrestrial systems. Finally, the smooth, unbroken surface of the sea hides the seascape from sight, depriving us of the easy and informative synopic view available with a simple cursory glance on land. It is easy to recognize emerald ash borers, for instance, and the damage they do to midwestern and eastern forests; but similar habitat destruction on the sea floor is not so easily or immediately accessible.
Because of these difficulties, some of the data for fisheries come from the people engaged in both commercial and recreational fishing themselves. The statistics of catch numbers, sizes, weights, and more provide primary data that allow the agencies involved to assess and analyze the health of our fisheries.
Communication between management entities and fishermen is key to responsible management, which is why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is currently seeking input from saltwater anglers in order to assemble a new saltwater fisheries policy.
NOAA, the primary federal agency tasked with fisheries management, is interested in developing and implementing an agency-wide saltwater recreational policy that would institutionalize the tenets of recreational fishing. These core principles would be used to guide future management decisions and policy actions, and the opportunity to be a part of this conversation is a good chance for anglers to have their voices heard.
The first and best way to interact with NOAA is to attend one of their town halls, held across the country over the summer. A complete list of these town halls shows a pretty good coverage in many of the key recreational “hubs” along our coastlines. At these meetings, recreational anglers will be able to listen to and talk with fisheries managers and biologists about their vision of recreational fishing.
For those unable to attend in person, a series of online live webinars will be taking place, allowing interested people the opportunity to call in and have a discussion with NOAA officials. Finally, an online message board will be available until September 2014, where you can leave comments and thoughts to add to the discussion.
What sort of things are going to be discussed? NOAA has provided an excellent primer on fisheries policies, complete with discussion questions to think about when looking at the complex topic.
For instance, how do you define recreational fishing, and how would your personal definition impact anglers on a national scale? What are the best practices to reduce release mortality, and how can these be effectively communicated to all recreational anglers? What kind of habitant enhancement projects should be undertaken to help protect fish populations? These are complex questions that undoubtedly benefit from many perspectives, including yours as a recreational fisherman or woman.
Remember the old saying: if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. NOAA is giving you the chance to engage in the conversation, and I hope you take the opportunity offered and join in.
What do you think is the most important topic the NOAA should be concerned with?