Recreational anglers’ priorities center around fisheries rehabilitation, management and economic recovery as region continues to address consequences of 2010 oil spill
A new report by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership outlines recreational anglers’ recommendations for projects and initiatives designed to help the sportfishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico recover from the 2010 oil spill.
“Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries: Recommendations for Restoration, Recovery and Sustainability” is the result of a series of workshops the TRCP organized in May with Gulf State anglers, scientists, charter fishermen and guides, state and federal fisheries managers, fishing tackle and boat retailers and representatives of conservation organizations. The workshops were designed to solicit input for projects and programs to benefit fisheries and fisherman in Gulf region as they continue to deal with the aftermath of the oil spill.
“By delineating the priorities of recreational anglers, our report can help guide federal, state and local officials who are engaged in making the Gulf a better place to live and fish,” said Whit Fosburgh, TRCP president and CEO. “The fact that anglers choose to focus on habitat improvement and restoration – and investing in better and more complete science and data – demonstrates that sportsmen are primarily concerned with the health and sustainability of our nation’s ecosystems. This can and should serve as a roadmap for restoration efforts that will benefit both our Gulf fisheries and economic health.”
Specific habitat restoration and improvement project recommendations contained in the report include expanding and restoring oyster reefs, marshes, sea grasses, mangroves, scallops, corals, barrier islands and artificial reefs; improving water quality by limiting nutrients coming from rivers and streams; and comprehensively restoring the Mississippi River Delta.
“Recreational fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is essential to the region’s unique culture and quality of life,” said Chris Macaluso, director of the TRCP Center for Marine Fisheries. “This report resulted from close engagement with recreational fishermen and a range of experts in fisheries management throughout the Gulf. It presents a vision of what a healthy fishery can be.
“The TRCP and its sportfishing partners are ready to work with state and federal agencies responsible for Gulf restoration to achieve better habitat and better fishing experiences in the Gulf as oil spill recovery funds become available,” continued Macaluso. “We look forward to remaining actively engaged in the restoration process.”
The TRCP’s Gulf Recreational Fishing Restoration Workshops were held in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Partner groups the Coastal Conservation Association, Center for Coastal Conservation and American Sportfishing Association worked closely with the TRCP in organizing and attracting participants to the workshops.
“Millions of anglers who purchase fishing licenses and support conservation come to the Gulf each year,” said ASA President Mike Nussman. “Recreational fishing in the region contributes more than $10 billion in annual economic activity to the five Gulf States. Many communities would wither away without the money brought in by recreational angling.
“The projects and programs recommended in this report not only will help repair what was lost and damaged by the spill,” stated Nussman, “they will help ensure that recreational fishing and the economies of countless Gulf communities remain healthy and sustainable for coming generations.”
The report pinpoints a host of programs that could help improve fisheries monitoring, data collection, research and management. Specific efforts include long-term monitoring of habitat restoration, expanding fisheries-independent and fisheries-dependent data, investing in observer programs in which state and federal fisheries managers can accompany recreational anglers, and the construction of fisheries science and stock enhancement centers.
Anglers also advised implementing programs to help repair aging boat launches and piers, expand boater education programs and youth fishing programs, and promote Gulf fishing throughout the country to repair damages to recreational fishing businesses, restore angler interest and confidence, and mitigate lost fisheries access caused by the spill.
“CCA Louisiana has played an integral role in conservation and creation of valuable fish habitat and in giving recreational anglers a chance to enjoy quality fishing experiences across the Gulf Coast,” said David Cresson, CEO of CCA Louisiana. “This report represents the priorities of CCA members very well and lists the kind of quality projects and initiatives that will restore and enhance the quality of our fisheries across the Gulf.”
The sportfishing groups will continue to work with federal and state representatives on the Restore Council, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to make the best use of Gulf restoration funds.
“The Gulf continues to provide world-class fishing opportunities to anglers around the world,” said CCC President Jeff Angers. “Like all of our great fisheries, the Gulf’s vital habitats and the science and data used to manage fisheries need to be expanded and improved to make sure those opportunities remain for generations to come. Recovery dollars from the 2010 oil spill present an unprecedented opportunity for recreational anglers to work with federal, state and local officials to build a better fishery for the future. This report and the partnerships highlighted therein give our community the guidance to accomplish that.”
Logo courtesy Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership