It appears politics is outgunning science and common sense when it comes to fishing regulations these days. Enter the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), an organization worthy of boating industry support as it advocates in Washington and elsewhere for the nation’s recreational saltwater anglers.
Last year, Congress reauthorized the “Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation & Management Act” that advocates protection for America’s fisheries. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the act also mandates inflexible deadlines and directs Regional Management Councils to set yearly quotas for all federally managed fish stocks. In such mandates rest many potential problems for recreational anglers.
Right now the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council has blatantly ignored calls by recreational anglers to verify the accuracy of claimed gag grouper stocks before plunging into arbitrary new regulations that will virtually wipe out recreational angling for this grouper. World-respected fisheries biologist Trevor Ketchington has reviewed the National Marine Fisheries Service’s own data and determined that overfishing was not occurring for this grouper. Still, the Gulf Council is turning a deaf ear.
Accordingly, topping the agenda at RFA is H.R. 5425, “The Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act.” It’s a fancy name for a bill that promotes restoration of fish populations and positively impact the growth of fishing and boating for the long-term. Most importantly, the bill also mandates fishery managers to exercise flexibility in regulations and timetables when certain common sense conditions apply, such as economic considerations or changes in environmental, ecological or fish-stock assessments. In other words, let reason prevail over politics!
“Despite the known inaccuracies with the gag grouper assessment, as well as other stock assessments, NMFS continues to hide behind some claim of ‘best available science’ to justify its cutbacks,” says Jim Donofrio, RFA executive director and founder. “The approach taken in the gag grouper fishery is one example of a growing trend. It’s time for the boating and fishing industries to force NMFS to close massive holes in their assessments through the use of outside, non-bias fishery experts,” he adds. Amen!
RFA is doing a much-needed work and deserves direct support from the retail side of our industry, particularly those dealers who are selling boats in saltwater fishing markets. To learn a lot more and show your support and join, simply go to: www.joinrfa.org