NOAA releases recreational fishing blueprint

Fishing for fluke the easy way, with the rod in the holder, off the Vineyard north shore. A new plan aims to provide better fishing opportunities. — Photo by Ned Casey

NOAA last Tuesday released a blueprint intended to protect fish species of importance to the recreational saltwater fishing community and the industry it supports, valued at $50 billion in sales to the U.S. economy.

The plan for the northeast region addresses several bait species of concern to Martha’s Vineyard fishermen. These include herring, squid, and butterfish.

The “Regional Saltwater Recreational Fishing Action Agenda,” described as the first plan of its kind, includes six separate agendas and is designed “to help improve fishing opportunities and address recreational fishing priorities in each of the nation’s six coastal regions and for the angling community that fishes for tunas and other highly migratory species,” according to NOAA.

The new action agendas mark the first time NOAA has both national and regional strategies in place to address the priorities of the nation’s estimated 11 million saltwater anglers who took approximately 73 million fishing trips in 2010, according to a press release.

“We worked closely with saltwater anglers and their supporters on plans designed to improve stewardship and fishing today and for future generations,” Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service said. “We’ll revisit the regional action plans regularly to ensure we continue to address our shared goals.”

The agenda lists five national recreational fishing action goals: improving recreational fishing opportunities; improving recreational catch, effort and stock status data; improving social and economic data on recreational fisheries; improving communications; and improving institutional orientation to promote greater understanding of saltwater angling issues.

The “Northeast Region Recreational Fisheries Action Plan,” which includes the Island, sets out several priorities. These include a project to work with regional fishery management councils to ensure that Atlantic herring, mackerel, squid, and butterfish populations are maintained at healthy levels.

“This project would also focus on reducing the unintended catch of forage fish such as river herring, which are important food for striped bass and other fish prized by saltwater anglers,” according to NOAA.

NOAA sets out a number of projects intended to meet the plan’s overall goals. These include: provide comprehensive management in 2012 for recreational fisheries species and the forage fish that support them; offer expanded electronic logbook reporting to party/charterboats; assess stocks of important recreational fish; report on economic information related to Northeast party/charter boat; conduct valuation and economic impact studies of recreational anglers; study how to best measure the economic value of saltwater fishing licenses; and offer lectures on recreational fishing issues, and develop a presentation on Magnuson-Stevens Act fishery management as it relates to recreational fishing.

Economic impact

Recreational fishing is an important component of the economy of Martha’s Vineyard and the northeast region.

NOAA reported that the latest data shows 24.6 million fishing trips took place in 2009.

NOAA’s 2009 fisheries economic study estimated the marine recreational fishing trips and their related expenditures for New England at $1.8 billion, and for the Mid-Atlantic at $3.5 billion.

“This provides a total of $5.3 billion in economic activity for Northeast coastal state economies,” NOAA reported. “Recreational fishing also offers the citizens of and visitors to the Northeast coast special experiences that can enrich their lives by giving them close contact with the ocean and the complex web of life it supports. These experiences can foster an appreciation for conservation of sea life, and provide insight into the types of programs required to maintain and protect fisheries and the habitat supporting them.”