Sport Anglers Alarmed by Proposed Obama Policy

By Geoffrey English • March 19th, 2010

A controversy has erupted in the sport fishing community over a new federal management plan for oceans and Great Lakes waters. Recent opinion pieces circulating on the internet and reported on numerous radio stations have stoked the flames through revelations that the policy, if implemented, would prohibit recreational fishing within vast areas of public water.

It has also been reported that many organizations with a history of being against fishing access played large roles in its formation and that the plan could be finalized by the end of March with President Obama able to implement it through Executive Order.

Despite the firestorm, it should be pointed out that the plan is not currently finalized and, according to a Department of the Interior fact sheet, the Administration denies any intent to restrict fishing access. However, there remain causes for concern.

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA) reported on the draft plan in October, 2009. At the time a combination of factors raised concern with the USSA and other pro-fishing organizations that plan could result in restrictions on sport anglers.

First, there was a lack of any reference in the report to the positive impact recreational anglers have on aquatic conservation. In turn, this raised an alarm as to what the framework for zoning in these waters will be when the final report is issued.

Other factors included a history of anti-fishing interests that have been pushing the creation of “Marine Protected Areas” where angling would be prevented. Several of these areas already exist off theCalifornia and Florida coasts.

Additionally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that guides the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources, has also imposed restrictions on sport anglers in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic. Finally, there is a general concern related to some of the key anti-hunting regulatory appointees made by the Obama Administration such as Cass Sunstein.

When looked at comprehensively, these factors made it necessary that the USSA and other groups ensure that the voice of recreational anglers be heard by the Administration during the formation of its policy. According to several leading recreational fishing groups, this has not happened and those groups have urged supporters to make their concerns known to their members of Congress.

For example, the American Sportfishing Association has stated “It is important that the administration recognizes and promotes the economic and conservation contributions of outdoor recreation, including recreational fishing and boating.”

Jim Donofrio, the Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) said in a recent press release that “I don’t think this president would consider banning recreational fishing outright, but it’s clear to us that the Obama Administration would like to severely restrict recreational fishing.”

Additionally, the U.S. House of Representatives Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus leadership, with the support of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, has also sent a letter to President Obama stating that recreational fishing deserves “full consideration and incorporation” in the proposed plan.

The USSA joins these pro-fishing organizations, legislators and others in urging sportsmen to contact their U.S. Representatives and Senators about this proposed policy. It is essential that the Obama Administration appreciates the importance of recreational fishing to conservation and local economies.

“Recreational anglers provide the bulk of the funding for fisheries and aquatic conservation,” said Bud Pidgeon, USSA president and CEO. “Their voice should be heard before any policy is enacted limiting access and causing a decline in resources for conservation, not to mention job losses in areas supported by fishing.”

Take Action! Sportsmen are urged to contact their U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators and urge them to include recreational fishing protections in any federal management plan for the oceans and Great Lakes.

To find your members of Congress, visit the Legislative Action Center at www.ussportsmen.org/lac.

 

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