Anglers Cautiously Optimistic After Recreational Fishing Summit

CCA participants hope to see results after meeting with NOAA Fisheries

Posted on April 21, 2010

Outdoorsmen were out in force at the nation’s capital last week as two events in Washington DC were dedicated to how this country manages its wild and natural resources. As President Obama hosted the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors on April 16, NOAA Fisheries was hosting the Saltwater Recreational Fishing Summit on April 16-17.

Coastal Conservation Association President Pat Murray was among those invited to hear President Obama’s remarks on the importance of reconnecting Americans to the outdoors during the event at the Department of the Interior. Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, and Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, led the conference, which brought together leaders from communities across the country that are working to protect their outdoor spaces.  Participants included ranchers and farmers, sportsmen and women, State and local government leaders, Tribal leaders, public lands experts, conservationists, youth leaders, business representatives and others for whom the outdoors is an integral part of their culture and community.
Just across town, a host of CCA volunteers and staff were participating in the NOAA Fisheries Recreational Fishing Summit, an event that fulfilled a promise by NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco to forge a better relationship between the recreational angling community and federal fisheries managers.
“We have participated in these kinds of summits before with NOAA leadership. Some of the CCA participants attending last week have been to two or even three of them without much to show for their efforts,” said Bob Hayes, CCA General Counsel. “However, I am optimistic that NOAA is listening and will help us with issues like catch shares, National Ocean Policy and the government’s attitude toward the recreational angling community. We did our part – we were very clear about what we would like to see change, and we provided hundreds of ways for them to do it.”
CCA participants in the 2010 Recreational Fishing Summit included:
Bob Hayes, CCA General Counsel – Next Steps and Accountability
Richen Brame, CCA Atlantic States Fisheries Director – Key Challenges Facing Recreational Saltwater Fishing Today
Mike Kennedy, CCA Florida – Regional Perspectives – South Atlantic
Ed Sapp, CCA Florida – Regional Perspectives – Gulf of Mexico
Lee Blankenship, CCA Pacific Northwest – Regional Perspectives – Pacific Northwest
Pat Murray, CCA President – Visions of Success
Matt Paxton, CCA Federal Lobbyist
Scott McGuire, CCA Maryland
Charlie Witek, CCA New York
Bill Bird, CCA Florida
Chester Brewer, Chairman of the CCA National Government Relations Committee
Russell Nelson, CCA Gulf Fisheries Consultant
Rad Trascher, CCA Louisiana
Ted Venker, CCA Director of Communications
Reaction from CCA representatives was cautiously optimistic that tangible benefits may result from the summit.
“One of the fundamental problems we’ve had with NOAA Fisheries is their utter lack of understanding the nature and management of recreational fisheries,” said Richen Brame, CCA Atlantic States Fisheries Director. ”No matter how hard they try, they cannot fit us neatly into the same management box as commercial fishermen.  While I will not bet the ranch on it, there are at least signs of hope emanating from this conference that NOAA Fisheries is trying to understand recreational fisheries and may begin to manage them properly.”
“Those who participated in the summit did a great job clarifying and communicating our issues and concerns,” said Chester Brewer, CCA National Government Relations Committee chairman. “Eric Schwaab (NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries) has committed to preparing a work plan and follow-up to address the major items. I am cautiously optimistic.”
The two-day summit featured more than 30 speakers from all over the country, with plenty of time set aside for discussions among participants on key challenges and solutions for federal fisheries management.
“The stage has been set,” said Charlie Witek, CCA New York. “It’s now time for all of the actors to properly play out their roles.  How they do so will determine whether the production will ultimately be viewed as a triumph, a flop or something in between.  I feel, though, that at least there are folks out there who want to offer some help.”
Both Dr. Lubchenco and NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Eric Schwaab spoke at the summit, which drew a greater-than-expected crowd of 170 attendees, some from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii.
“The excellent turnout at this summit tells me that you want to be heard. And I am here to tell you that NOAA is not only listening, but we are also ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work with you,” said Dr. Lubchenco in her opening remarks. “I want to start by making one thing very clear: NOAA is committed to working with the recreational fishing community. NOAA’s commitment ‐‐my commitment‐‐ to saltwater anglers is not a hollow one. We do not intend to make empty promises.”
Schwaab told participants he had three goals for the summit: to walk away with a clear and common understanding of the issues of concern and some sense of the relative importance of those issues, nationally, regionally and strategically; to outline a process by which we will continue to work together on these issues, and to identify steps that can be taken to address these concerns; this will form the basis of an action agenda.
“We are here with a view toward the future, intent to build on previous successes, while learning from and avoiding mistakes of the past,” he said. “Over the next two days, we’ll have some focused discussions – about our desired outcomes, and pathways toward those outcomes.”
NOAA Fisheries will be posting video taken at the event to the agency’s web site in a couple of weeks, along with a complete copy of Dr. Lubchenco and Eric Schwaab’s remarks and other information. Other material on the event, including agenda packet, background documents, survey results and related documents may be found HERE.
Obama Admin Looks to Cast a Line With Anglers – New York Times, April 16, 2010