Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

GoFISHn interview with NOAA big fish, Eric Schwaab

NOAA’s Eric Schwaab

Ned Desmond from GoFISHn.com has posted his three part interview with Eric Schwaab, NOAA’s assistant administrator for fisheries. I wrote about Eric when he was appointed and as you will see in Desmond’s interview Schwaab is a not only a thoughtful leader but a vocal champion of recreational fishing.

Desmond and Schwaab discuss many the pressing issues of concern to saltwater recreational anglers. It is a comprehensive look at the work NOAA is doing and what it means for recreational fishing.
[Read more…]

Along the Ocean (Policy Task Force) Front

If you are a saltwater angler you probably recall some of the hue and cry surrounding the Obama administration’s Ocean Policy Task Force. This task force was purported to being writing the regulations that would, among other things, close the oceans to sport fishing. The final report from the task force was released recently and for the most part it was well received as good news for recreational anglers as noted here on GoFISHn.com

I added my two cents to the discussion on GoFISHn.com here.

Bottom line. The report is a step forward and an opportunity to work with the new National Ocean Commission to make sure national ocean policy recognizes the important contribution recreational fishing makes both socially and economically.

Fishers for Fish Habitat Tour and Forum in Australia

I was in Australia for the past couple of weeks. During the first week my wife and I had a chance to visit some of New South Wales; the South Coast, Snowy Mountains, Lake Jindabyne, Kosciusko National Park, Cooma and Cowra. We tried to stay away from the large urban areas and see as much of the more rural parts as we could.

The second week, we had the pleasure of spending 5 days with Craig Copeland and Charlotte Jenkins of Industry and Investment New South Wales. They took my wife and I on a tour of some of the fish habitat projects they have been working on. It was a great opportunity to see how our Australian colleagues are dealing with the challenges of dwindling fish habitat. We went to sites in the Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central West, Hunter Valley and wound up at Lake Macquarie for the forum.

I also had a chance to be part of a panel discussion with some notable Australian recreational fishing pros and give a presentation on fish habitat activity in the U.S., especially the National Fish Habitat Action Plan and the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture.

F4F recreational fishers panel

i sound smarter with a beer in front of me....

I even managed to get a little press coverage of my visit:  US expert says conservation is give and take.

It was a wonderful opportunity to see Australia both on our own and with some liked minded conservationists and to trade ideas and stories about two things I really enjoy, fishing and conservation.

NOAA announces New National Policy Advisor for Recreational Fisheries

Eric Schwabb, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, announced today that he was appointing Russell Dunn as NOAA Fisheries National Policy Advisor for Recreational Fisheries. He also announced the appointment of 22 members from the recreational fishing community to the Recreational Fisheries Working Group of NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee.

Schwabb’s actions are another step toward making good on a promise by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco to create a better working relationship with America’s saltwater angling community.

At a time when concerns are being raised by the recreational fishing community about the focus and intention of NOAA and the Obama Administration with regard to fishing these announcements are both timely and welcome.

Here is Schwabb’s statement:

Statement from Eric Schwaab, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries – Announcing Russell Dunn to new position of National Policy Advisor for Recreational Fisheries

Today, I am pleased to appoint Russell Dunn as the NOAA Fisheries National Policy Advisor for Recreational Fisheries and to appoint 22 members of the recreational fishing community from around the nation to a Recreational Fisheries Working Group to provide expertise on saltwater recreational fishing to NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC).

These actions fulfill a pledge made by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco to the recreational fishing community to put in place the national advisor to help lead NOAA’s efforts to create a stronger and more productive partnership between NOAA and America’s saltwater angling community.

As national advisor, Russell Dunn will work with anglers to address their interests as we build and implement an action agenda to provide for the long-term health of fish stocks and work to protect and enhance the significant social and economic benefits fisheries provide to anglers and to our coastal communities. Russell will report directly to me.

Russell, who begins the job on March 28, brings 14 years of public and private-sector experience in national and international marine fisheries policy. He is respected for his experience and dedication by leaders of the recreational fishing industry. He has been the branch chief of NOAA Fisheries Highly Migratory Species Management Division, served as a policy advisor to the U.S. Delegation to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, and worked as director of government relations at the National Audubon Society on its Living Oceans Campaign. He also worked for then- Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. An avid angler, Russell will be based in St. Petersburg, Fla, in the heart of the nation’s largest recreational fishing region. He will serve as the national point of contact for the saltwater fishing community, and coordinate closely with both NOAA Fisheries national and regional staff.

His first duties will include helping Dr. Lubchenco and me to bring together over one hundred recreational fishing constituents and representatives from around the country, including the members of MAFAC’s recreational working group, to a national summit on April 16 and 17 in Alexandria, Va. At the summit, we will explore issues important to recreational fisheries, and identify priority actions for moving forward.

Russell takes over for Gordon Colvin who has been serving as interim Senior Policy Advisor for the past 6 months.  I would like to thank Gordon for his extraordinary service.

Please join me in welcoming Russell to this new and important role.

Eric C. Schwaab

NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries

For media inquiries, contact Connie.Barclay@noaa.gov or Monica.Allen@noaa.gov, (301) 713-2370.

For all other inquiries contact Laurel.Bryant@noaa.gov, (301)713-1276.

TU Responds to ESPN Outdoors Piece on Sportfishing

TU members and supporters got an email from the TU leadership offering their view on the flap surrounding the Oceans Policy Task Force. There had been significant confusion about the task force was up to. TU has done a good job of helping to cut through the atmospherics and get solid information out to the membership.

Three points at the end deserve special attention:

We at TU hope that the CEQ and NOAA statements put this issue to rest. In our view, there is no evidence that the Obama Administration intended to use the work of the Ocean Task Force to undercut marine sport fishing.

Also, we would like to point out that Eric Schwaab, NOAA’s Assistant Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, began his new position in February and is a superb conservationist and an avid angler. We wish him well and look forward to working with him in the coming months.

NOAA has invited TU to join many other sportfishing groups to participate in a “Recreational Saltwater Fishing Summit” in Alexandria, Va. in April to discuss this and other issues pertaining to marine sportfishing.

TU email follows:

Dear TU Supporters:

We wanted to take a moment to respond to a number of you who have written to us this week concerning an ESPN piece that appeared on the ESPN Outdoors website about the draft proposal recently published by the President’s Ocean Policy Task Force. The first sentence in the piece said the following: “The Obama administration has ended public input for a federal strategy that could prohibit U.S. citizens from fishing some of the nation’s oceans, coastal areas, Great Lakes, and even inland waters.”

Subsequently, the Executive Producer of ESPN Outdoors issued a statement saying that the piece was an opinion piece and not a news article. That statement is linked here, as is the original published piece from the ESPN Outdoors website.

http://sports.espn.go.com/outdoors/saltwater/columns/story?columnist=bowman_steve&id=4982359

The confusion over the ESPN article led the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the coordinating entity for federal environmental efforts, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), to issue the following statements:

Eric Schwaab, NOAA’s Assistant Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service:

“The Ocean Policy Task Force has not recommended a ban on recreational fishing.”

“The draft reports by the Ocean Policy Task Force do not contain a zoning map and do not establish any restrictions on recreational fishing, nor make any judgments about whether one ocean activity or use is better than another. Instead, the reports set up a policy and framework for effectively managing the many sustainable uses of the ocean while upholding our responsibility to be stewards of our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.”

“As a member of the task force, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, has said, and I echo her on this, that saltwater recreational fishing is vital to this nation and NOAA is committed to building a strong partnership with America’s saltwater anglers to ensure that Americans have opportunities to fish sustainably for generations to come.”

“Saltwater recreational fishing matters to me on a personal level as a recreational fisherman, it matters to millions of Americans who enjoy this great sport and it matters to our economy. Our most recent economic report shows it supports a half million jobs and generates $82 billion in sales each year.”

“NOAA is committed to adopting policies that will ensure that current and future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the great tradition of recreational fishing.”

Christine Glunz, Communications Director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality issued statements the following statement today regarding the Ocean Policy Task Force:

“The draft reports issued by the Ocean Policy Task Force have involved extensive stakeholder input and public participation as they were being prepared, which has included the interests of conservationists and the recreational fishing community. These draft reports are not map-drawing exercises, they do not contain a zoning plan, and they do not establish any restrictions on recreational fishing or on public access, nor make any judgments about whether one ocean activity or use is better than another.”

“The Ocean Policy Task Force sincerely appreciates the conservation activities of recreational users, who have a long history of actively participating in the stewardship of the ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources. The Task Force strongly believes in the ability of recreational fishermen and women to continue to enjoy these activities that are critical to the economic, social, and cultural fabric of our country. In fact, one of our main goals is to ensure healthier ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes, which will benefit all recreational activities and the communities and economies that rely on them.”

We at TU hope that the CEQ and NOAA statements put this issue to rest. In our view, there is no evidence that the Obama Administration intended to use the work of the Ocean Task Force to undercut marine sport fishing.

Also, we would like to point out that Eric Schwaab, NOAA’s Assistant Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, began his new position in February and is a superb conservationist and an avid angler. We wish him well and look forward to working with him in the coming months.

NOAA has invited TU to join many other sportfishing groups to participate in a “Recreational Saltwater Fishing Summit” in Alexandria, Va. in April to discuss this and other issues pertaining to marine sportfishing.

We’ll be there and we’ll look forward to continuing to work with NOAA on the many challenges we face together.

Regards,

Chris Wood, President and CEO

Steve Moyer, Vice President, Government Affairs

Kudos to Interior and NOAA for working to protect Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland announced that the U.S. will continue its support for a ban on the international commercial trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

“…in light of the serious compliance problems that have plagued the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean fishery and the fact that the 2010 quota level adopted by ICCAT is not as low as we believe is needed, the United States continues to have serious concerns about the long-term viability of either the fish or the fishery,” said Strickland.

Here is the DOI News Release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States will continue its support for a proposal to ban all international commercial trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna at this month’s meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Doha, Qatar, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland announced today.

Strickland, who will head the U.S. delegation to the 15th Conference of Parties (CoP15) of the 175-nation treaty, initially announced support for the proposal last October, but left open the possibility that the United States could modify its position if the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) adopted significantly strengthened management and compliance measures during its November 2009 meeting.

“Under the leadership of NOAA, the United States entered the meeting seeking the strongest possible agreement for the conservation of eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna.  We recognize that the parties to ICCAT took some unprecedented steps,” said Strickland.  “However, in light of the serious compliance problems that have plagued the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean fishery and the fact that the 2010 quota level adopted by ICCAT is not as low as we believe is needed, the United States continues to have serious concerns about the long-term viability of either the fish or the fishery.”

The Atlantic bluefin tuna is highly prized, especially for sashimi, and a single fish can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars. The Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stock is threatened by overharvesting, which includes illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing.

Current population information for the species shows it meets the biological criteria for listing in Appendix I.  In the Atlantic Ocean, bluefin tuna are managed as two separate stocks, an Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, and a Western. The Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stock of the Atlantic bluefin tuna has declined steeply during the last 10 years.  Based on estimated catches, scientists estimated the spawning stock biomass in 2007 to be 78,724 metric tons.  This contrasts with the biomass peak of 1955, at 305,136 metric tons.  The decline over the 50-year historical period ranging from 1955 to 2007 is estimated at 74.2 percent, the bulk of which (60.9 percent) took place during the last 10 years.

The Western Atlantic spawning stock has declined by 82.4 percent from 49,482 metric tons in 1970 to 8,693 metric tons in 2007.  During the past decade, the Western stock has stabilized at a very low population level.  Many experts correlate this stabilization to adoption of rigorous science-based catch quotas and other management measures together with effective monitoring and enforcement. Such measures ensured strict compliance with ICCAT’s ruled by the U.S. fleet.

Strickland noted that the parties to ICCAT took positive steps at the November meeting.  These steps included a commitment to set future catch levels in line with scientific advice, to shorten the fishing season, reduce fishing capacity, and close the fishery if the stocks continue to decline.  However, in light of the serious compliance problems that have plagued the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean fishery and the fact that the 2010 quota level adopted by ICCAT is not as low as needed, the United States will support the proposal to list Atlantic bluefin tuna in Appendix I at CoP15 and will work actively with Monaco and other CITES and ICCAT Parties in order to achieve positive results for bluefin tuna at CoP15 and at the 2010 ICCAT annual meeting.

If the bluefin tuna is listed under Appendix I, commercial fishermen in the United States could continue to sell western Atlantic bluefin tuna caught in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) domestically.  Fishing in the EEZ is tightly regulated in the United States to ensure that it meets the ICCAT science-based quota. The United States is both a consumer and a net importer of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Strickland indicated that the United States will explore measures to assist fishermen if international trade is restricted.

“We understand the frustration of our U.S. fishermen who have followed the scientific recommendations and regulatory provisions of ICCAT for many years while their counterparts in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean have often overfished and engaged in ineffective management,” Strickland said.  “The U.S. government is committed to working with our many international partners to continue to rebuild Atlantic bluefin tuna and ensure sustained conservation and management of the species into the future.”

A CITES-regulated species may be included in one of three appendices to the convention:

  • Appendix I includes species for which it is determined that any commercial trade is detrimental to the survival of the species. Therefore, no commercial trade is allowed in Appendix-I species. Non-commercial trade in such species is allowed if it does not jeopardize the species’ survival in the wild. Permits are required for the exportation and importation of Appendix-I species.
  • Appendix II includes species for which it has been determined that commercial trade may be detrimental to the survival of the species if that trade is not strictly controlled. Trade in these species is regulated through the use of export permits.
  • Appendix III includes species listed by a range country that requires the assistance of other parties to ensure that exports of their native species are legal. Permits are used to control and monitor trade in native species. Any CITES party may place a native species in Appendix III.

Any listing of a species in either Appendix I or II requires approval by two-thirds of the CITES party countries that vote on the proposal.
The Conference of the Parties will be held March 13-25, 2010, in Doha, Qatar.