ASA’s Southeast Fisheries Policy Director, Martha Guyas, highlighted the key issues affecting recreational saltwater fishing in the Southeast.
Yesterday he American Sport Fishing Association (ASA) Southeast Fisheries Policy Director Martha Guyas testified on the importance of sound fisheries policy before the US House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries.
The oversight hearing, titled “Benefits and Access: The Need for Multiple Uses of Water in Resources,” included a discussion of the multiple needs and benefits of water resources in the United States, including fisheries and fisheries-related issues. . Guyas began by showing the many ways that fishing benefits conservation, jobs, and the US economy.
“In 2021, 52.4 million people went fishing in the US, creating 826,000 jobs and contributing $129 billion to the economy,” Guyas said. “Through the purchase of fishing licenses, excise taxes and direct donations, the recreational fishing community contributes approximately $1.7 billion to the conservation of aquatic resources each year. I am confident to say that no other user group does as much to ensure that our nation’s waterways and fisheries are healthy and accessible to the public.”
Guyas continued his testimony by focusing on four key issues related to fishing access and conservation in the southeastern United States: Gulf Red Snapper, South Atlantic Red Snapper, North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Speed Restrictions and shark predation.
At Gulf Red Snapper, Guyas noted that while state management has led to increased recreational access, and recent science has found red snapper to be three times more abundant than previously thought, challenges remain. Several states are facing significant reductions in catch limits due to discrepancies between state and federal catch estimates, and overall catch limits have not improved significantly despite our better understanding of red snapper abundance.
After turning to the South Atlantic red snapper issues, Guyas mentioned that while the rebuilding of the Atlantic red snapper fishery is a success story, managers have yet to provide reasonable catch opportunities for anglers. According to Guyas, “Questions have been raised by SAFMC, scientists and the public as to whether the data and assumed reference points in the stock assessment lead us to the incorrect conclusion that this fishery is being overexploited and overfished.”
When the audience highlighted NOAA’s 10-knot boat speed restriction to try to protect the North Atlantic right whale, Guyas pointed out how slower travel can cause anglers to cancel fishing trips and that while the ASA supports efforts to protect whales, this rule was quickly approved by NOAA and has significant flaws. Guyas noted: “Right whales deserve better protection, but sweeping and blanket speed restrictions that are not based on the best available science are not the solution.”
The final issue highlighted by Guyas was shark predation, which occurs when a shark eats or damages a hooked fish before the fish is landed. Guyas highlighted ASA’s position on managing shark predation, noting: “We support a variety of methods to protect sharks in four pillars: education, management, policy and research.” Guyas further stated: “ASA believes that fisheries managers need to move beyond identifying challenges with shark interactions and start working collectively on solutions.”
ASA thanks Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.) and Ranking Member Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) for holding this important hearing. The full video of the hearing can be found here. For more information on each of the previous issues highlighted by Guyas, visit ASA’s Current Issues page.
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The American Sport Fishing Association (ASA) is the trade association for the sport fishing industry committed to representing the interests of the sport fishing and boating industries, as well as the entire sport fishing community. We provide the industry and anglers with a unified voice when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect the sport fishing business or sport fishing itself. ASA invests in companies for the long term to ensure the industry remains strong and prosperous, as well as to safeguard and promote the enduring economic, conservation, and social values of America’s sport fishing. ASA also gives America’s 55 million fishermen a voice in political decisions that affect their ability to fish sustainably in our nation’s waterways through Keep America Fishing, our national fisherman advocacy campaign. America’s fishermen generate more than $50 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating jobs for 825,000 people.