The National Ocean Policy adopted by the Obama Administration is severely limiting recreational fishing opportunities. Or so said witnesses at a recent congressional hearing.
President Barack Obama issued the policy by executive order two years ago, repealing one set in 2004 by the last Bush Administration. Under Obama’s order, a National Ocean Council works with federal, state and local agencies to sustain the ecology of the nation’s coastal waters and Great Lakes. Nine regional planning organizations develop sustainment plans. The order calls for restricting fishing in some areas. View the order at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/executive-order-stewardship-ocean-our-coasts-and-great-lakes.
House Republicans protested that the administration failed to include stakeholder such as fishermen in adopting its policies.
At a hearing of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs; Capt. Robert Zales II, president of the National Association of Charterboat Operators, complained that anglers are already overregulated. “The Fishing Industry (recreational and commercial) cannot absorb any more regulatory burden,” Zales testified. “The costs and regulatory burdens have driven private recreational fishermen to find other forms of recreation. They have forced the recreational for-hire owner out of business because the consumer is unwilling to continue to pay more for the government requirements as the costs of regulations cannot be passed on.”
Recreational fishermen aren’t to blame for dwindling resources, added Gary Zurn, a board member of the American Sportfishing Association. He stated “recreational fishermen view themselves as conservationists first and foremost, as evidenced by the millions of dollars they contribute to fisheries conservation and the countless hours volunteered towards fish stocking and fisheries habitat projects. Recreational fishing accounts for just two percent of all marine finfish harvest…. According to the (the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, most) fish caught by anglers are released alive. Most recreational fishing gear never comes in contact with any aquatic habitat, whereas commercial gears like trawls scour the bottom of the ocean. I say this not to put commercial fishermen in a bad light, but rather to highlight the relatively light environmental footprint that recreational fishermen have on the environment, while also contributing so much– both financially and through volunteer work on fisheries restoration projects – back into conserving the sport we love.”
Watch a webcast of the hearing or read the testimony at http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=284846.