New NOAA Fisheries Guidelines Should Improve Federal Marine Fisheries Management

ASA_Logo_LrgAgency takes several steps toward addressing concerns with overly-rigid management approaches 

Alexandria, VA – October 13, 2016 – The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) today applauded NOAA Fisheries for updating and improving the guidelines it and the regional fishery management councils use for developing fishery management plans for the nation’s federal marine fisheries. The final revisions to National Standard 1 and related guidelines of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) address several challenges that have arisen in marine fisheries management over the last decade due to requirements in the law and the agency’s interpretation of them.

“We commend NOAA Fisheries for making meaningful improvements to the National Standard guidelines, which should improve recreational fishing opportunities for federally managed marine fisheries while ensuring the nation is still achieving our strong fisheries conservation standards,” said Mike Leonard, ASA’s Conservation director. “Many of the proposed changes address issues identified through the engagement that NOAA Fisheries has made with the recreational fishing community in recent years, and more specifically the recommendations of the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, more commonly known as the Morris-Deal Commission.”

The revised guidelines address many of the recommendations offered by ASA and others in the recreational fishing community, including:
• Allowing changes to catch limits to be gradually phased in over up to three years, as long as overfishing is prevented.
• Increasing latitude, based on the biology of the fish stock, in setting timelines for rebuilding programs.
• Providing flexibility for better managing data-limited stocks while adhering to conservation requirements.
• Allowing for greater stability in fishing regulations through guidance on considering multiple years when determining overfishing status.
“We look forward to working with NOAA Fisheries and the councils to incorporate this new guidance into future management actions, including revisiting past actions,” said Leonard.

“While these revisions represent progress, they do not preclude the need for modifications to MSA to more fully address challenges with federal fisheries management, like providing limited exemptions for annual catch limits, allowing use of alternative management approaches in recreational fisheries and establishing a process for examining allocations. We continue to call on Congress to reauthorize MSA and fix these persisting challenges in federal fisheries management.”