EDFish

Selected tag(s): Recreational Fishing

Our National Marine Sanctuaries Are Ready For Anglers

Kids fishing on the seawall as a part of the "Hook Kids On Fishing Event" at the kickoff.

Kids fishing on the seawall as a part of the “Hook Kids On Fishing Event” at the kickoff.

Navigating the rules of recreational fishing can be difficult sometimes; and most anglers strive to be responsible stewards of the ocean’s resource.  That’s why many have avoided fishing our national marine sanctuaries.

As it turns out, fishing is allowed in the majority of our nation’s marine sanctuaries along with diving, surfing and other recreational activities.  In fact, anglers can fish in 98% of the designated sanctuaries along our coastlines.

Environmental Defense Fund believes that the best environmental policies find a way, when possible, to protect important resources while maintaining access for individuals or businesses.  Our National Marine Sanctuaries are great examples of that, and that’s why we are a proud sponsor of the National Marine Sanctuary Classic.

The Classic is a free summer-long fishing and photo contest taking place in four National Marine Sanctuaries: Channel Islands and Monterey Bay, CA on the west coast and the Florida Key, FL and Gray’s Reef, GA on the east coast. Read More »

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Collaboration with Industry is Crucial to Protect Fish and Put Fishermen Back on the Water

Heather Paffe, Regional Director, Gulf of Mexico and Southeast

Heather Paffe, Regional Director, Gulf of Mexico and Southeast - EDF Oceans

In many fisheries, the rules for recreational fishing are tightened every year. This is bad for charter, tackle and other businesses; it keeps anglers off the water and it threatens the U.S.’s long-standing fishing heritage.

It’s clear that current fishing rules aren’t working.  EDF believes that collaboration between conservationists, fishermen, and managers is the best way to find a new management approach that works to protect fish – so that they’re more plentiful in the future – and put fishermen back on the water. If things don’t change, the federal government will continue to impose more rules, such as widespread closures.

Last week EDF hosted a collaborative workshop with for-hire (charter) fishermen from across the country to understand how their fishery management can be improved in order to truly recover popular fisheries.  Understanding if catch shares could work for for-hire fisheries was an important part of this discussion.  This workshop is one among many in which EDF has reached out to fishermen to better understand their concerns and discuss potential solutions that work to improve fishermen’s access and catches as well as recover fish populations.  Sportsmen already carry a well-known conservation ethic, which will help guide future progress.

Future access for responsible recreational fishing is threatened due to flawed federal management practices and a “business as usual” approach will only accelerate this trend. We can and should advance innovative reforms that build off the existing conservation ethic of sustainability through stewardship that our nation’s sportsmen embody. It all begins by starting the conversation.

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Fishery Research Accelerated by Oil Spill

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oz0VZEjXztM 

EDF staff recently had the privilege to participate in a university-fishing industry research expedition conducted by graduate students from the University of West Florida, on Captain Gary Jarvis’ boat, the Back Down 2, in Destin, Florida.

Underwater surveys explored reef fish populations and their habitat. They were originally scheduled throughout summer, but have been sped-up to serve as baseline samples in case the oil spill spreads as far as Alabama and Florida. These may be particularly important given this weekend’s news that large plumes of oil have been found at deep depths offshore.

The researchers have several objectives including exploring fish population structure and habitat and examining fish tissue and stomach contents. Their methods include use of a Remotely Operated Vehicle to view the underwater environment to identify, measure and count fish. The researchers were also studying how varyingly skilled anglers catch fish on different sizes of circle hooks.

Cooperative research has many benefits

Cooperative research trips like this one are good for science and fishing businesses. UWF researchers chartered boats out of ports in Alabama and Pensacola in the week prior, and have scheduled several additional trips with Captain Jarvis and others.  The research rapidly provides much needed data on the health of fish stocks, and provides an opportunity to help charter businesses struggling with lost business from the oil spill.

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Oil Spill Exposes the Flaws of Gulf Recreational Fishing Management

 httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bni8RT6HgqU

As a massive oil spill and its underwater plumes continue to threaten fisheries in parts of the Gulf, charter captains are in an immediate pinch: their prized red snapper season is about to open on June 1 for just 53 days, but clients are foregoing fishing trips because they are worried about whether it is safe to visit the coast and fish in the Gulf during the oil spill. Offshore fishing outside the closed spill area remains good, and fishing captains are ready to accommodate customers.

But, Captain Gary Jarvis of Destin, Florida, points to an unexpected impact:  “This oil spill exposes the failure of Gulf recreational fisheries management.” 

With so many cancelled trips, and a short government-set red snapper season, charter fishermen are looking for ways to stay afloat. While traveling the Gulf Coast, I heard a lot of ideas for moving around or extending the 53 day red snapper season.

Click here to learn more about the latest oil spill-related fishing closures in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We need a new way to manage our fishery that gives us the flexibility to deal with these kinds of disasters and run stable businesses,” Jarvis said.

Thankfully, they don’t have to look far for a working model.

“In addition to my charter business, I have a small commercial fishing business,” Jarvis explained. “The commercial side of my business is doing fine. For now, I’m not worried about it because the fishery is managed smartly.”

Gulf commercial red snapper fishermen currently fish under a system called “individual fishing quotas” that allows them to harvest a portion of fish throughout the year when it makes most sense for their business, instead of during a set season.  In exchange for this flexibility, each fishermen is held accountable for his harvest.

“Some form of catch share suitable for the for-hire industry needs to be looked into to see if we can be managed with the flexibility needed to stay profitable and keep the public access open for recreational fisheries,” Jarvis said.

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Catch Shares Not for Private Anglers – Part of EDF’s Comments on NOAA’s Draft Catch Share Policy

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans Program - National Policy Director

Amanda Leland, EDF Oceans Program - National Policy Director

EDF recently submitted comments to NOAA on its draft catch share policy.  In the letter we address how catch shares are better than fishery closures; how they improve fishing jobs and restore the resource; and how they are locally designed to meet specific biological, economic and social goals. We also address the importance of stakeholder input in the design of a catch share program.

We’ve been asked recently what EDF’s position is regarding recreational fishing and catch shares.  Here’s what we say in our letter to NOAA:

There are two distinct segments of the recreational fishing community: charter boats and private individual anglers. Current management is failing both segments, as seasons dwindle, bag limits shrink, size limits increase and fishing opportunities are decreased. The recreational fishing community deserves better than that.

Since charter boat captains maintain a fishery-dependent business similar to commercial fishermen, catch shares management should be considered for that segment. However, for private anglers catch shares are not appropriate and a new approach is needed. We should support new ideas that can help get fishermen back on the water and restore the resource.

Read EDF’s full letter of comments to NOAA.

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