Recreational Fishing Facing Disastrous Closures
From The Outdoor Wire
WASHINGTON, DC - The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) briefed members of Congress yesterday on two simultaneous disasters impacting recreational fishing caused by the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the total closure of substantial ocean fisheries by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The Gulf oil spill threatens an ever expanding portion of the fishable waters in the Gulf, as well as the over 300,000 jobs and $41 billion in yearly economic activity supported by recreational anglers and boaters in the region. A recent American Sportfishing Association study determined that 85 percent of recreational fishing-dependent businesses cannot survive the fallout without immediate financial assistance.
"Thirty-two percent of the Gulf of Mexico is now closed to any and all recreational activities because of this catastrophe," said U.S. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana. "There are over 2,300 bait and tackle shops and thousands of other related businesses operating in this area and the millions of dollars in lost income threatens their very existence."
"We need the support of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus to ensure that recreational fishing is explicitly addressed in legislation aimed at the Gulf oil spill," said Jeff Angers, President of the Center for Coastal Conservation and CSF Board Member. "Specifically, it needs to be aimed at protecting and rebuilding key fisheries with research and data-gathering efforts now, and providing financial relief to businesses such as bait and tackle shops."
Another disaster impacting sportfishing and boating is the continued closing of important recreational angling in thousands of miles of U.S. marine waters by NOAA Fisheries. The recreational fishing and boating industries and the industries who serve them contribute $82.3 billion to the U.S. economy every year and support nearly 534,000 jobs.
"NOAA is attempting to cut off thousands of miles of valuable recreational fishing areas without sound scientific reasoning and by utilizing faulty fish population data," said CSC Co-Chair Rep. Dan Boren. "At no time in our history has there been more of a need for hard, accurate science regarding our marine resources."
On January 4, 2010, NOAA Fisheries closed the South Atlantic red snapper fishery, and yesterday the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council agreed to a red snapper ban in a 5,000-square-mile area off the coast of Georgia and northern Florida in water ranging from 98 to 240 feet, effectively closing the entire area to any bottom fishing.
CSF and fellow members of the fishing and boating communities, on behalf of the 13 million saltwater anglers and the businesses and jobs that depend on them, are working with the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus to ensure that recreational angling and boating are addressed in legislation targeted to address the oil spill, and a need for new legislation to protect and preserve key saltwater angling areas utilizing proper research and data gathering efforts under provisions set forth in the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA).
"The legislative responses needed to address this one-two punch is crucial to the nation's anglers and the tens of thousands of businesses and Americans whose income and jobs depend on them," said CSF President Jeff Crane. "The large area fishing closures from NOAA's implementation of the MSA, along with expanding closures as a result of the oil leak will keep anglers away off the water, undermining the financial basis for fisheries conservation through the Wallop-Breaux user fees and state license fees."
The congressional briefing was held in conjunction with the Center for Coastal Conservation, American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association and The Billfish Foundation.
Lance Lemmonds (202) 543-6850 ex 19
Photo from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
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