CCA Continues Fight for Proper Fisheries Management and Recreational Angler Representation

John Blaha

CCA Continues Fight for Proper Fisheries Management and Recreational Angler Representation

Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) is comprised of 17 state chapters, spanning the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Each state operates and raises funds that stay at home to support the chapter's activities in conservation advocacy, communication and habitat programs. CCA, the national organization, is funded though membership dollars to centrally manage fishery and resource issues that are regional, national or even international in nature.

Many federal issues have come to the table in recent years in which CCA worked hard for the benefit of our marine resources as well as the interests of recreational fishermen. These recent issues have only underscored the importance of the CCA National organization. From the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), to catch shares and to the Obama Administration's National Ocean Policy, CCA has been at the forefront of efforts to conserve our shared marine resources and represent recreational anglers' interests.

Magnuson-Stevens Act -
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and Conservation Act, first passed into law in 1976, was re-authorized in 1996 and again in 2006. This act is the overarching law that manages America's marine fisheries and throughout its 30-plus-year history, it has been dogged by a persistent problem that affected both recreational and commercial fisheries its inability to end overfishing. As a result, when MSA was reauthorized in 2006, unprecedented requirements were included that placed definitive deadlines on overfishing of all species by 2011 and rebuilding of overfished species within specified time lines.

Though the MSA mandates of the reauthorization in 2006 may be the recipe needed for good conservation, in combination with an agency that has utterly failed to properly manage our marine resources, they are causing real short-term hardship. Users of the resource have been understandably irate at the prospects of closures for popular species, but have directed their anger at the new provisions of MSA, rather than at the agency which has failed miserably to discharge its duties under law. A veritable train wreck is upon NOAA Fisheries as a result of its dearth of data and lack of effort to manage recreational fisheries.

CCA, together with coalition partners including the American Sportfishing Association, The Billfish Foundation, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, Center for Coastal Conservation and the International Game Fish Association, are continuing to work diligently to see that a reasonable, workable solution is implemented to address the roots of the problems in federal fisheries management.

Catch Shares -
Catch share programs set a biologically based annual catch limit for a fish stock and allocate a specific share to entities, such as commercial fishermen, cooperatives or communities. When designed correctly, catch share programs in purely commercial fisheries may help eliminate the race to fish, reduce overcapacity, and improve economic efficiency. Unfortunately, in fisheries where there is large and growing recreational sector, exclusive fishing rights proposals maximize benefits to the commercial fishing industry while ignoring the participation and beneficial economic impacts of recreational fishing. Catch share programs will cement outdated allocations as we have seen with Gulf red snapper. CCA has long called for reallocation of fisheries where appropriate, based on an economic analysis to provide the greatest economic benefit to the country.

CCA has been, and will continue to be, very involved in this debate. Most recently, Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, delivered testimony before the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife Oversight Hearing, on behalf the Center, American Sportfishing Association, CCA, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufactures Association and The Billfish Foundation. The testimony was pointed and presented the serious concerns of the coalition about the impact of commercial catch shares on the recreational sector in mixed-use fisheries. CCA is currently engaged in a lawsuit filed in September 2009 challenging the adoption and implementation of Amendment 29 to the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Management Plan, which gives away a majority share of Gulf grouper to the commercial fishing industry through a catch share program.

Obama National Ocean Policy -
In June of 2009, President Obama created the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force. The Task Force, led by the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), was charged with developing a national policy and implementation strategy for conserving and managing the United States' ocean territory and the Great Lakes. The policy will govern ocean and Great Lakes resource management and coordinate efforts among federal, state and local agencies.

The Task Force's Interim Framework for a National Ocean Policy was out for public review and comment until February 12, 2010. The single most obvious flaw in the report upon its release was the omission of responsibly regulated recreational fishing as a key activity for the oceans and the Great Lakes. In addition, as a national policy document governing the oceans and Great Lakes, the report skewed toward a preservationists policy of locking up public waters instead of one that promotes sustainable uses such as recreational fishing. CCA has submitted comments and testified at multiple hearings throughout this process and has maintained not only that anglers must be a key part of any National Ocean Policy, but access to angling opportunities must be a priority in the policy as well.

Summary
In today's fisheries and coastal resources management, CCA National continues to play a crucial role for all state chapters. In federal waters and with fishery issues that cross state lines, CCA has the ability to affect policy with the goal of creating sustainable marine resources and increasing opportunities for all recreational anglers to enjoy those resources. For more information about CCA and these federal fishery issues, please visit www.JoinCCA.org and click the Newsroom tab.