Managing Our Oceans and the Great Lakes
In June 2009, President Obama created the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, which was charged with drafting a national ocean policy for conserving and managing the United States ocean territory and the Great Lakes. This complex policy has created significant concern within the recreational fishing community, as it includes concepts that could set the foundation for closing public access and recreational fishing. Sportfishing is an integral part of coastal economies throughout this nation and therefore should be included as a priority in any national ocean policy.
The sportfishing community strongly supports healthy and abundant ocean, coastal and fishery resources, which have a direct impact on sustaining vibrant local coastal communities. Sportfishing is an integral part of coastal economies throughout this nation and therefore should be included as a priority in any national ocean policy.
It is a long-standing policy of the federal government to allow public access to public lands and waters for recreational purposes consistent with sound conservation. This policy is reflected in the principles of our wildlife refuges, national forests, national parks and wilderness areas, and should be reflected in a national policy for the oceans and Great Lakes. The ability of recreational anglers to use public marine resources should be as strong as the ability of hunters and anglers to use public lands.
As with any good federal policy decision, discussions about measures that may restrict public access to public resources must involve an open public process, a solid scientific basis and specific guidelines on implementation and follow-up.
The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, led by the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), was given 90 days to develop basic recommendations for the conservation and management of U.S. ocean territories and the Great Lakes and 180 days to develop a comprehensive framework.
The Task Force released its Interim Report on September 17, 2009, which was open for a 30-day public review and comment period. The most obvious problem with the report was the omission of responsibly regulated recreational fishing as a key activity for the oceans and the Great Lakes. This omission triggered a strong response by the recreational fishing and boating community, citing the significant conservation, economic and social contributions made by fishing and boating which should be recognized as a key component of the policy.
In addition, the recreational fishing and boating communities believe that the policy was skewed towards a preservationist policy of contracting access to public waters instead of one that promotes sustainable uses such as recreational fishing.
On December 9, 2009, the Task Force released its Interim Framework for Marine Spatial Planning. A coalition of ten of the leading recreational fishing and boating organizations submitted joint comments on the Interim Framework.
The final report was released in July 2010.
Final Report on a New Ocean Policy
On July 19, 2010, the White House's Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force released its final report on a new national policy with the stated goals of ensuring protection, maintenance and restoration of the nation's oceans, coastal areas and the Great Lakes.
The recreational fishing and boating community provided substantial input to the Task Force and advocated that the social, economic and conservation benefits of sustainable use of our nation's public resources, such as recreational fishing, receive priority consideration in the new coastal and ocean management policy. Through KeepAmericaFishing™, anglers and boaters sent thousands of emails to the Task Force, CEQ and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), stating their concerns and urging these agencies to include recreational fishing as a priority activity in the national ocean policy.
Following the release of the new report on July 19, 2010, President Obama issued an Executive Order to implement the policies in the report. The Executive Order included the creation of a National Ocean Council (NOC) to guide the implementation of the national ocean policy and nine regional advisory committees to advise the development of regional coastal and marine spatial plans.
While the final report acknowledges the importance of promoting recreational fishing and stewardship as an important national ocean policy objective, there are still many unanswered questions about how recreational interests will be incorporated in the process of allocating areas of the oceans for specific uses and what level of priority recreational activities will receive. Therefore it is vitally important for the recreational fishing community to continue to be involved as the policy moves into the planning process at the regional level. KeepAmericaFishing will continue to keep anglers engaged and up-to-date on this issue as it moves forward.