Making Waves Fall Edition 2022

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Bluefin & Hudson Canyon Sanctuary Proposal Take Center Stage



Information about one key issue and resurgent pelagic fisheries make up the bulk of this issue of Making Waves.







Since the idea of designating the Hudson Canyon as a marine sanctuary was broached in 2017 the idea has created a lot of controversy. Other areas to be so designated have seen restrictions on fishing within their boundaries. Most have been on commercial fishing but that does not rule out possible restrictions on recreational access should the governing body set up by the designation deem it appropriate. The Hudson Canyon is the centerpiece of recreational action for tuna, billfish and mahi and restrictions would have major consequences for anglers, support industries and shore-based economies.















Cover Art: Steve Moran


Coverage kicks off with formal comments by the RFA’s new executive director, Rob Nixon followed by a detailed explanation of the proposal by NOAA along with some interesting press coverage. Read it and make sure you contact your representatives with your concerns about the sanctuary designation. Bluefin tuna are a much sought-after gamefish on the east and west coasts. This year Pacific bluefin made a remarkable return to California waters and anglers are enjoying incredible fishing. Atlantic bluefin have been a growing presence over the past ten years and are responsible for thousands of angler trips. I encountered an extraordinary bluefin bite just eight miles off the North Jersey shoreline in late August with fish from schoolies to over 100 pounds caught aboard my 27’ Pathfinder. Learn more about the fish, newly confirmed spawning grounds and how management is generating dividends. Its an important and exciting issue so read along and if you haven’t become a member of the RFA you can join for free at Donations and sponsorships are the lifeblood of the organization and we would welcome your support.

Publisher: Gary Caputi Editor in Chief: Barry Gibson Editor: Carolinn Pocher Woody Art Director: Maxwell Moran 3

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RECREATIONAL FISHING MUST BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE IN HUDSON CANYON The RFA recently submitted the following public comment regarding the Proposed Hudson Canyon Marine Sanctuary: LeAnn Hogan NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries 1305 East-West Highway, SSMC4 Silver Spring, MD 20910 Dear Ms. Hogan: The Recreational Fishing Alliance is grateful for the opportunity to make comments on the proposal to designate the Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary. The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) was founded in 1996 to represent the interests of saltwater anglers and the recreational fishing industry. Since that time, we are proud to have participated in the development of numerous public policy discussions and decisions on behalf of our members and the larger saltwater recreational fishing community at the federal and state levels. This topic is of great interest to all. The National Marine Sanctuaries Act (16 U.S. C. 14 31 et seq) is designed to protect marine environments of “recreational” and “historical” significance. Fishing in the Hudson Canyon is most certainly of historical significance among recreational anglers. However, the designation of the Hudson Canyon as a Marine Sanctuary has raised a number of serious questions among saltwater anglers and charter captains as to whether fishing could one day be banned there. Recreational anglers care deeply about the marine environment, and they will be the first to argue that clean water means healthy marine habitats. The RFA, therefore, respects and supports efforts to restrict any drilling for oil and natural gas in this area. But fishing that is properly managed should have no bearing on preserving the marine environment as proposed here. The Hudson Canyon is a critical area for fishing for both pelagic and bottom-dwelling species. The area attracts local anglers from New Jersey, New York, and visitors from around the nation and the world. In addition to the thousands of private boat trips made to the area each year it also supports a significant for-hire fleet of boats that either specialize in this fishing or use it to enhance their earning opportunities when inshore fisheries are seasonally closed. It even has a major impact on tourism as boats and crews come great distances to participate in major offshore fishing tournaments. It is the epicenter of the marlin and tuna fisheries on the East Coast and therefore a major contributor to our coastal economy. In fact, boating and fishing contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the Mid-Atlantic economy annually. There is little question that a future fishing ban in the Hudson Canyon would all but eliminate a way of life in this region. NOAA must appreciate the concern that this proposal has caused for the region’s anglers and fishing and marine industries. It is therefore critical that any future


Sanctuary designation here must unequivocally preserve access for recreational fishing for private boat owners, for-hire fishing businesses, and all shoreside businesses that depend on their continued access to these unique and historically significant fishing grounds. The RFA is aware from the proposed NOAA-NOS-2022-0053 and NOAA comments in public hearings that the “intention” of the Sanctuary concept is to preserve recreational fishing as currently managed today. However, as NOAA has also heard in public comments, anglers worry that an intention today does not indicate action to prohibit fishing in the future. We believe, however, that NOAA can act to eliminate this concern should a Sanctuary designation be adopted for the Hudson Canyon. NOAA can reassure the recreational fishing community by taking steps to solidify the proposed intention of keeping the sanctuary open to recreational fishing. These could include: •

Adoption of language in the Sanctuary management plan to clearly state that recreational fishing is welcomed now and in perpetuity within the designated Sanctuary.

Establish that the “Terms of Designation” (Section 306: “Prohibited Activities”) does not include recreational fishing to ensure that fishing is not banned and will remain under the management of the relevant fisheries councils.

Set aside seats on the Pre-Designation Advisory Council for recreational fishing appointees.

It is likely that all the stakeholders will agree that this area of the ocean is special and deserves to be treated with the utmost respect. The RFA is also in agreement, and we believe preserving this area from industrialization and potentially harmful mineral and energy extractive purposes and any form of pollution is critical to our continued recreational use of these vibrant waters. We simply ask that the historical, cultural, and economic benefits of recreational fishing be clearly spelled out and preserved should a Marine Sanctuary be established encompassing the Hudson Canyon. The RFA stands ready to work with NOAA and the proponents of the Sanctuary. Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns. Sincerely, Robert A. Nixon Executive Director Recreational Fishing Alliance



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A FISHERMAN’S TOUR OF THE HUDSON CANYON Gary Caputi, Publisher, Making Waves While fishing the waters of the Hudson Canyon you’d be hard pressed to imagine that under your feet is one of the earth’s most spectacular geological formations. It was one of those mornings that fishermen dream about. The summer sun burst over the horizon in a display of vivid colors that reflected off the surface of a nearly calm ocean. A light breeze moved the rapidly warming air that quickly dried the dew off the covering boards of our sportfishing boat. The trolling pattern of spreader bars and ballyhoo was set at first light, and we didn’t have to wait very long before pandemonium erupted. Two rods went down, drag clickers screaming out the tune all bluewater fishermen love to hear. The reels were giving up line at such a rapid pace that it was obvious we’d been blessed with a morning double shot of bigeye tuna. Who needs caffeine when the adrenalin is pumping almost as fast as the tuna’s tail. After an hour of give and take, sweat and some choice words, two 200-pound plus “eyeballs” came over the rail, were bled, collared and packed in ice in the cockpit fish boxes. What a way to start the day! With the spread out again, not ten minutes went by before a white marlin, its body glowing in vivid shades of silver and blue, rose behind a teaser, then moved over to a ballyhoo run off the port flatline and attacked. This battle was far more visual as the acrobatic marlin put on an aerial show that rivaled performers at Cirque du Soleil. After a spectacular tussle the billfish was brought along side, unhooked, and released. Welcome to the Hudson Canyon, one of the most productive fishing spots found anywhere in the world. It is home to an incredible diversity of sea life that includes blue marlin, white marlin and swordfish, yellowfin, bigeye, albacore and bluefin tunas, mahi mahi, wahoo, tilefish and sharks. Here you can encounter pilot whales by the hundreds, false killers, humpbacks and the second largest animal on the face of the earth, the mighty finback whale that attains lengths to over 60 feet. I have seen thousands of porpoises of more than a dozen species and vast clouds of squid, butterfish,


scup, flying fish and halfbeaks all there to feed the masses of predators. Endangered sea turtles visit here seasonally as do oddities like the mola mola and whale shark. The volume and variety of seabirds that spend time here is hard to imagine if you haven’t seen it for yourself. I remember one evening in the Hudson Canyon when shearwaters were everywhere, some resting on the surface, others flying just above the swells leaving long shadows on the water as the day faded into a gorgeous sienna sunset. If you’ve ever overnighted here on a moonless night the sky is alive with stars and a glorious view of the Milky Way that you will never see back on shore. The Hudson Canyon is a very special place for fishermen. The abundance of sea life and critical habitat found throughout the canyon and the surrounding shelf area is something we all want to see protected. That said, access to this area for well-managed recreational and commercial fishing is something that is equally important to protect. Fishermen of all stripes have been abiding by the laws and regulations put in place to conserve and protect this place and its inhabitants so current and future generations can enjoy the wonder and bounty it provides. Fishermen will continue to support those efforts. But our concern over the designation of the Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary is justified. Such a designation has been used before to prohibit fishing. It creates an additional layer of bureaucracy on top of the existing agencies and laws that already afford the canyon’s wildlife and critical habitat the protection it deserves, but could fishing be unfairly limited or prohibited altogether by proponents of the designation? Or by the citizen council it creates to oversee future regulations? Let’s look at why the Hudson Canyon is such important habitat for fish and fishermen. The canyon was formed over 10,000 years ago near the end of continued on page 7

continued from page 6 the last ice age when mile-high ice sheets blanketed much of what today is the northern half of the United States. As the earth warmed, the ice sheets began to melt, and the water cascaded over the land and into existing river systems that had been frozen for eons. All that ice was created at the expense of sea level which was estimated to be about 400 feet lower than it is today, so vast areas of what is the submerged Continental Shelf were literally high and dry. The Hudson River extended across that dry plain to the edge of the ocean nearly 100 miles further east when the torrents of melt water scoured out an ever-deepening riverbed that was eventually submerged as the ice sheet receded raising sea level dramatically. Today the ancient riverbed extends from the mouth of New York Harbor in a path that can be traced on a bathometric chart where it is first shown as the Mudhole, then the Glory Hole, then the Chicken Canyon which widens until it reaches the “Tip” of the Hudson Canyon proper. At the Tip the water depth drops from about 400 feet to thousands of feet, and as you continue to follow it on the chart it widens and deepens until it finally falls off into the Atlantic Abysmal Plain. In size the Hudson Canyon is larger than the Grand Canyon and much deeper. At its widest point it is almost eight miles wide and 10,000 feet deep. In a boat heading roughly east from the Tip, fishermen call the dropoff to the left the East Wall and to the right the West Wall. Along the way these walls get farther apart and exhibit varying degrees of steepness as they descend into the depths of the center of the canyon area. Many areas are rich with deep water corals and exposed areas of various bottom composition including vast areas of Pleistocene clay deposits, the strata where tilefish burrows are found. The walls of the canyon interact with currents creating upwellings of nutrient-rich cold water with warmer surface waters that spawn the chain of life. It starts with phytoplankton blooms that attract filter feeding baitfish and other micro-organisms that feed larger animals, which in turn attract hordes of predator fish and marine mammals to feed on the bounty of squid and baitfish.

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Photo: White Marlin

While the Gulf Stream passes well to the east of the canyon, it interacts with it in a unique way. Warm core eddies, basically miles-wide, bowl-shaped bodies of 80-plus- degree deep blue water break off the western edge of the Stream and drift southwestward down the face of the Continental Shelf. These eddies spin in a clockwise direction and frequently extend well into the Hudson Canyon where the currents hit the walls and further ignite the bait/predator explosion. Eddy interactions are responsible for some of the very best marlin fishing to be found anywhere in the world from late June through September. Tuna fishing often continues long after the billfish migrate out of the area in the fall with yellowfin, bigeye and longfin tuna sometime hanging out well into November. The Hudson Canyon is a bluewater fisherman’s equivalent to Nirvana. This amazing area has been a primary destination for recreational and commercial fishermen for decades, and while a sanctuary designation might seem like a great idea, from a fisherman’s experience if it moves forward, we will always be waiting for the next shoe to drop -- that next set of regulations that could limit or ban recreational fishing for one reason or another. That is why, as a representative of the angling public, the Recreational Fishing Alliance has very specific concerns about this controversial designation, and you can read about them in the RFA Position Paper on page 4.




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- Of great concern to the fishermen that showed up to a public scoping meeting is a guarantee that no extra regulations would be placed on their industry if the Hudson Canyon was designated a National Marine Sanctuary. They didn’t walk away with one after the meeting with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s sanctuary’s staff at Monmouth University’s Urban Coast Institute on Thursday. NOAA, however, was not there to make promises or make any management decisions. At this point it’s just looking for public comments, the first part of a multi-year designation process. NOAA’s sanctuary staff will use the public comments then to put together a management plan for the Hudson Canyon, such as the boundaries for the sanctuary, its permitted uses and protections. If it gets to the point of a sanctuary, an advisory committee would be created where fishermen would have a seat at the table, the staff said. The canyon is a prolific fishing ground that starts about 90 miles offshore from Manasquan Inlet and is in the crosshairs of a public debate over the sanctuary designation, which would give NOAA more leverage managing the resources of the largest submarine canyon off the Atlantic Coast. The canyon, which draws warm-water eddies that spin off from the Gulf Stream, is an ecological wonder, supporting large schools of tuna and squids; it’s a foraging ground for whales and porpoises and home to many bottom fish and curious sea creatures such as anemones, crabs, octopi, deep water corals and is dotted with shipwrecks, some dating to the 19th century. The canyon itself is 350 miles long, reaches depths of 2 to 2.5 miles and is up to 7.5 miles wide. It was carved out of the ocean floor thousands of years ago by the Hudson River when the area was exposed during the last


glacial period. If the water was removed, the ocean floor would look a lot like the Grand Canyon. Commercial vessels fish for tunas, squid and lobster, while the state’s recreational fishing fleet of for-hire vessels continually run anglers out to the canyon to catch fresh tuna and tilefish. “We’re probably the greatest and strictest fishery management country in the world. Why do we need this extra layer on top of everything we have now?” said Jason Bahr, a seafood wholesaler and vice president of Blue Water Fisherman’s Association, a trade group of commercial longline fishermen who fish for pelagic species such as tuna and swordfish in the Hudson Canyon. Bahr said strict regulations have had a hand in reducing the East Coast’s long line fleet from 500 boats in the 1990s to 60 today. Several federal and international regulatory bodies and acts already manage the fish species that traverse the canyon or reside there, including the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Atlantic Highly Migratory Species, the National Marine Fisheries Service, Mid-Atlantic Marine Fisheries Council and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or ICCAT. “We’ve taken a lot of hits. The number of party boats, charter boats has declined. So many tackle shops are closed. Right now, we’re saying recreational fishing will be allowed in the canyons. But if that changes, where are we going to go? Recreational fishermen rely on that canyon,” said John Toth, vice president of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, an advocacy group for recreational fishermen. The sanctuary program would give NOAA additional oversight of the Hudson. In the program’s 40 years of existence, 13 national marine continued on page 11

continued from page 10

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sanctuaries and two marine national monuments have been established, beginning with the wreck of the Civil War-era ironclad USS Monitor off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. However, no sanctuary is managed the same and NOAA has allowed for additional fishing regulations to protect the sea floor and cultural legacies such as shipwrecks in several sanctuaries. The best fishermen got Thursday was assurance that fishing, both recreationally and commercially, would continue to be allowed in the canyon as it was recommended by the Wildlife Conservation Society New York Aquarium, the entity that nominated the canyon for the marine sanctuary designation in the first place in 2016. “The nomination was clear that fisheries in the Hudson Canyon are well managed by the fishery management councils and by NOAA fisheries and should continue to be managed under those authorities. We tend to agree,” said LeAnn Hogan, from the National Marine Sanctuary’s eastern regional office. The goals of sanctuary designation would be to protect the canyon from oil, gas and mining operations, conserve its resources, promote science, education and eco-tourism and focus on maritime history and heritage. Officials from Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach attended the meeting and put their support for the sanctuary designation on the public record. “For us, being an aquarium at the Jersey Shore, this gives also gives us an opportunity to share with our guests and visitors from all over the world the importance of the animals that live off our coast,” said Danni Logue, Jenkinson’s animal welfare programming coordinator. Congress would have to eventually vote on the sanctuary status. U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. said he supported the designation and was in favor of the sanctuary’s goals, particularly the added protection against drilling in the ocean floor. “For decades I’ve been leading efforts to clean up the Atlantic Ocean and protect it from dumping and pollution, marine debris and plastics. I really think a healthy ocean is key to our region’s tourism and our economy and fishing industries. I think we need to do all we can to keep our economy thriving,” Pallone said. However, Pallone said he couldn’t support it “if it places additional restrictions on fishing.” The public comment period ended August 8. It will be another three years or more from then before NOAA will make a decision on whether to make the canyon a sanctuary. When Jersey Shore native Dan Radel is not reporting the news, you can find him in a college classroom where he is a history professor. Reach him @ danielradelapp; 732-643-4072;


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INTERNATIONAL ACTIONS PAY OFF FOR PACIFIC BLUEFIN TUNA AS SPECIES REBOUNDS AT ACCELERATING RATE Following international action to end overfishing of Pacific bluefin tuna, a new stock assessment shows that the species is now increasing and includes many younger fish that will help accelerate its rebound. The new assessment was presented at a recent plenary meeting of the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-Like Species in the North Pacific Ocean (ISC). The assessment confirmed that the stock surpassed the first rebuilding target in 2019. It is projected to likely increase beyond the second rebuilding target established by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission later this year. This is well ahead of the internationally agreed schedule. “The new findings demonstrate the resilience of a species that can multiply quickly when given the chance,” said Kevin Piner, a research fishery biologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center who led work on the stock assessment for the United States. It also reflects the strength of the current stock assessment and projections that incorporate decades of information on Pacific bluefin biology and fisheries. It also demonstrates coordinated management action by nations including the United States, Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei and Mexico. “The species has responded exactly as we predicted it would given the actions that were taken,” he said. “This is an amazingly resilient fish and it is now showing us that.” He noted that while the trend is positive and accelerating, monitoring must continue to ensure the stock meets the second rebuilding target. Pacific bluefin tuna support U.S. commercial and recreational fisheries off the West Coast. However, the U.S. catch represents a small share of the combined international catch.

Coordinated Action Takes Hold Many fish such as bluefin are assessed based on their unfished spawning stock biomass—the theoretical amount of fish if there was no fishing. Catches reduced the bluefin biomass through the late 1990s and 2000s to only a few percent of its potential unfished biomass. Recent stock assessments predicted that reducing fishery catch on younger fish would lead to a rebound in biomass within just a few years. “We had confidence that the coordinated international actions to manage fishing impacts based on what the science showed us would put us on the right track,” said Ryan Wulff, who leads the U.S. delegation to the InterAmerican Tropical Tuna Commission, and serves as Assistant Regional Administrator for Sustainable Fisheries for NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. “This is why we invest in research to understand the species and we take a Pacific-wide approach.” Beginning in 2011, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission began management measures that reduced the catch of smaller bluefin and limited the catch of larger bluefin. This allowed more fish to grow to maturity. These measures reflected the U.S. interest in rebuilding the stock while also recognizing that some communities rely on bluefin and need continued fishing opportunities. The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission adopted a similar resolution to limit catches a year later in its management area. Since then, the two Commissions have coordinated across the Pacific, using the best available science to inform management decisions across the entire range of the species. In 2013, based on the 2012 ISC stock assessment, NOAA Fisheries determined that Pacific bluefin tuna were overfished and subject to overfishing. continued on page 16


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continued from page 15

In 2016, increasing concern about declining biomass levels led to a petition to list the species as endangered. NOAA Fisheries determined that while the population was near historical lows, the roughly 1.6 million fish was sufficient to avoid risk of extinction and protect against the effects of small populations. NOAA Fisheries formed a team to consider the status of the species in light of the petition. The team determined that international agreements and management changes should reduce the impact of commercial and recreational fisheries, particularly the impact on younger fish. That would reduce landings and help rebuild the population, the team found.

Younger Fish Accelerate Growth The new stock assessment confirmed what past stock assessments predicted. After declining from 1996 to 2010, the spawning stock biomass has increased since 2011. Fishing limits allowed younger fish to multiply, reaching the first rebuilding target adopted by the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission in 2019. The more numerous younger fish will grow in size, increasing the rate at which the biomass will increase and could reach the second rebuilding target as soon as this year. The stock is recovering faster than anticipated, and met the initial rebuilding target, 5 years ahead of the 2024 deadline, said Dr. Huihua Lee, a research mathematical statistician at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center. She helped develop the stock assessment. “The success reflects the coordinated science-based management measures to reduce catches of young fish and the strong resilience of the species,” she said. The rebuilding strategy applied what fisheries managers had learned from research into the life history, genetics and migration patterns of the iconic species, noted Kristen Koch, director of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and acting Chief Scientist of NOAA Fisheries. “That legacy of science showed us how we needed to work across boundaries and really across the Pacific Ocean to effectively turn things around for the species,” she said.





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The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council has approved a revised rebuilding plan and 2023 specifications for Atlantic mackerel. The first rebuilding plan for the stock was implemented in November 2019. However, an updated 2021 stock assessment found that, although the stock size almost tripled between 2014 and 2019, the stock was only 24% rebuilt in 2019 and unlikely to complete rebuilding as anticipated.

limited historical recreational catch and the importance of mackerel for recreational fishermen (including as bait). This limit is expected to reduce recreational catch by about 17%. Coordination with states that have substantial recreational mackerel catches (MA, NH, and ME) occurred during development of the plan, and it is hoped that these states will mirror the federal rules for their state waters in 2023.

The revised rebuilding plan approved by the Council has a 61% probability of rebuilding the stock by 2032. Of the five rebuilding options considered, the Council selected this approach because it has a high probability of successfully rebuilding the stock while avoiding the severe economic impacts that would likely occur with some of the other alternatives. Compared to the original rebuilding plan, the revised plan uses lower predicted recruitment in projections to reduce the chance of underperforming stock growth predictions again.

Under the selected rebuilding plan, the acceptable biological catch (ABC) will be 8,094 metric tons (MT) for 2023. After accounting for expected Canadian catch, recreational catch, and commercial discards, the Council recommended setting the 2023 commercial quota at 3,639 MT. This quota is 79% lower than the initial 2021 rebuilding quota. A new Management Track Assessment will be available next year to inform 2024-2025 specifications.

The Council also voted to implement a first-ever federal waters recreational possession limit for Atlantic mackerel for 2023. Recreational catches of Atlantic mackerel have been relatively low historically, but recreational restrictions were deemed appropriate to achieve the total catch reduction required under the rebuilding plan. The Council had initially considered possession limits in the range of 10 to 15 fish per person, but they ultimately recommended a 20-fish per person limit based on the


The Council also discussed potentially scaling down the river herring and shad cap, currently set at 129 MT, in response to the reduced commercial quota. However, given the challenges associated with monitoring a very small cap, including potential closures based on a few observed trips, the Council voted to maintain the cap at 129 MT for 2023. Finally, the Council agreed to request that NOAA Fisheries provide additional outreach and compliance assistance regarding the appropriate continued on page 19

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continued from page 18 permitting and catch reporting for both commercial and for-hire vessels. Additional outreach should address any ambiguity regarding the need to have a permit and submit electronic vessel trip reports (eVTRs) by these vessels. The Council will submit this amendment to the Secretary of Commerce for approval and expected implementation on January 1, 2023.. Updates will be posted on the Council’s website at https://www. For additional information about this action, contact Jason Didden at or (302) 526-5254.


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NEW FEDERAL RED SNAPPER REGULATIONS COULD ALLOW BIGGER LIMITS FOR SOME STATES, SMALLER FOR OTHERS Victor Skinner, The Center Square contributor A red snapper caught on a tagging trip off the waters of Panama City, Fla.

Florida Fish and Wildlife (The Center Square) — Dozens of congressmen in Southern states are pushing back against proposed federal regulations for red snapper, though the new rules could result in more opportunity for Louisiana anglers. Nearly 40 members of Congress, including Louisiana’s delegation, penned a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo last week urging her to direct the National Marine Fisheries Service to improve the science behind how the agency sets limits on red snapper harvest. The letter alleges proposed rules from NOAA Fisheries that concluded public comment on July 28 decreases the percentage of Gulf of Mexico red snapper that anglers can catch relative to the sustainable limit. Gulf coast states estimate angler harvest each year throughout the season, and states’ annual fishing limit was typically set just below the total overfishing limit to ensure a sustainable fishery. A Great Red Snapper Count — an independent study required by Congress — resulted in a proposed increase in the federal overfishing limit because it showed more fish than federal regulators previously realized through the NMFS’ Marine Recreational Information Program, but the proposed acceptable biological catch hardly increased. The proposed rule changes would also implement a “data calibration framework” designed to create a single currency among the various ways states monitor landings for the “state annual catch limit,” resulting in a reduction for some states and increases for others. The proposal would increase the overall red snapper overfishing limit from 15.5 million pounds to 25.6 million, while increasing the acceptable biological catch from 15.1 million to 15.4 million. The proposed calibration would increase the state annual catch limit in Louisiana and Florida by 50,000 and 100,000 pounds, respectively, while the limit in Alabama would drop by about 586,000 pounds and Mississippi’s limit would decrease by about 95,000 pounds. Texas’ annual catch limit would remain unchanged.


“There is no negative for us because with our calibration ratio we actually see an increase in the allowable catch from what our current number is,” Jason Adriance, finfish program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, told The Center Square. Regardless, lawmakers contend the NMFS’ reliance on MRIP data and efforts to calibrate state numbers from different surveys contradicts federal laws that require conservation and management measures to be “based on the best scientific information available,” according to the letter to Raimondo. “This proposed rule ignores the (Gulf Fishery Management) Council and Congress’s intent. When the Gulf Fishery Management Council adopted the calibrations in 2021, it intentionally delayed calibration so NMFS could propose more accurate ways to incorporate the States’ data. To further that work, Congress appropriated $2 million for NMFS to research an effective calibration solution,” the letter read. “By requiring the States to calibrate their more accurate—and NMFS certified—catch data to an outdated and fundamentally flawed MRIP, NMFS has failed to find an effective solution and is not making decisions based on the best available science while refusing to appropriately integrate the new data.” Lawmakers also contend NMFS is ignoring new data in the Great Red Snapper Count by reducing catch limits from 97% of the sustainable limit to roughly 60%. The Great Red Snapper Count documented roughly three times as many fish as NMFS previously recognized. NOAA Fisheries explained in its request for comment on the proposed rule changes that federal officials did not significantly increase the sustainable limit with the new information because analysis found many of the fish are in low densities in areas known as “uncharacterized bottom,” rather than “hard bottom” areas typically targeted by anglers. “Because red snapper occupying uncharacterized bottom have historically faced lower fishing mortality than hard bottom, basing harvest levels on the entire population may lead to localized depletion on reefs as the overwhelming majority of harvest would be expected to occur on this habitat,” according to the proposal.

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The following are a selection of regulatory changes enacted between January 1, 2022 through June 30, 2022 by DMF after public hearings and Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission approval, or by the Director under his declaratory and emergency authorities. For a complete list, including commercial, visit

Recreational Lobster and Crab Trap Clarification (322 CMR 6.19).

DMF clarified that recreational fishermen may only use traps to catch Cancer crabs and that all traps used must comply with recreational lobster trap restrictions.

Recreational Black Sea Bass Limits (322 CMR 6.28).

The recreational black sea bass limits were amended by emergency regulation. The emergency regulations establish a May 21–September 4 open season, 4-fish bag limit, and 16” minimum size. This replaces the May 18–September 8 open season, 5-fish bag limit, and 15” minimum size. These changes were necessary to reduce projected recreational harvest by 20.7% as required by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Recreational Scup Limits (322 CMR 6.27).

The recreational scup minimum size was increased from 9” to 10” by emergency regulation. This change was required by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to achieve a projected 33% reduction in harvest coastwide.

Recreational Summer Flounder Limits (322 CMR 6.22).

The recreational summer flounder limits were amended by emergency regulation. The emergency regulations establish a May 21–September 29 open season, 5-fish bag limit, and 16.5” minimum size. This replaces the May 23–October 9 open season, 5-fish bag limit, and 17” minimum size. These changes were enacted to meet an allowed 16.5% liberalization in projected recreational harvest in 2022, accomplished principally through the minimum size decrease, and to align the start of the season with the recreational black sea bass season.


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Rushed Revisions to the Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule:

In a blatant example of government overreach, the federal rule would broaden the current 10-knot speed limit to include boats 35 feet and larger (down from 65 feet), and significantly broaden seasonal speed restriction zones to include nearly all of the East Coast– impacting not only thousands of recreational anglers but only boat owners but marinas, tackle shops, charter boat operators; basically all maritime-related businesses on the Atlantic Coast. RFA signed on to a coalition letter with a broad group of stakeholders asking National Marine Fisheries Service to pause until they’ve weighed input from affected members of the public. Given the limited amount of time for the public to weigh in on these rule changes, it’s critical that you immediately contact your member of Congress and ask that they demand NOAA to put the proposed rule on pause. Click here to submit your public comment.

Hudson Canyon Proposed Marine Sanctuary Designation:

The proposed designation of the Hudson Canyon as a Marine Sanctuary has raised a number of serious questions among saltwater anglers and charter captains as to whether fishing could one day be banned there. It is the RFA’s position that is critical that any future Sanctuary designation here must unequivocally preserve access for recreational fishing for private boat owners, for-hire fishing businesses, and all shoreside businesses that depend on their continued access to these unique and historically significant fishing grounds. RFA’s executive director Rob Nixon has weighed in via public comment. RFA will continue to remain engaged on this issue.

Atlantic Mackerel:

Capt. Barry Gibson, RFA New England Regional Director, has been deeply involved in the process of the creation of the management plan for Atlantic mackerel from the beginning. Although we remain unsure of the accuracy of the data used in the latest stock assessment, we support the proposed 20-mackerel daily bag limit for recreational anglers, as we feel this will allow most fishermen ample opportunity to take a reasonable number of mackerel for home consumption or as use for bait for species such as striped bass and tuna. We applaud the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s decision to drop the suggested option of a closed season for recreationally-caught mackerel, as we believe this would have had a substantial negative impact on sport fisheries that depend upon mackerel for bait, as well as on coastal tourism industries, particularly in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Offshore Wind Farms:

The RFA recently submitted public comment on Ocean Winds Draft Environmental Impact Statement. RFA believes it is imperative that BOEM, the leaseholders, and the Coast Guard respect the rights of boaters to travel where they have for generations. Although RFA is grateful that the leaseholders and BOEM have developed outreach programs and appointed fishing liaisons, the final approvals must clearly protect the rights of recreational anglers and boaters to access fishing grounds that may be within the project area. Only a definitive statement of policy supporting recreational fishing rights in the lease area will relieve the concerns of the thousands of anglers and the multi-billion-dollar industry they support. Preserving the right to fish is a commitment made frequently in the hearings, in the reports, and in comments from the leaseholder. Cementing it as a part of the final approval should be a decision that is easy to reach together. RFA’s Barry Gibson and Mike Pierdinock have continued to be very active in addressing the increasing use of offshore waters for wind turbine farms off the New England Coast.


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NOAA-supported scientists announced that this year’s Gulf of Mexico “dead zone”— an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and marine life — is approximately 3,275 square miles. That’s more than 2 million acres of habitat potentially unavailable to fish and bottom species — larger than the land area of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. The five-year average dead zone size (also known as the hypoxic zone) is now 4,280 square miles, which is over two times larger than management targets. Since records began in 1985, the largest hypoxic zone measured was 8,776 square miles in 2017. The measurement was made during an annual survey cruise, led by a team of scientists from Louisiana State University and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) aboard the R/V Pelican offsite link during the last week of July. The information gathered is a key metric used by the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Hypoxia Task Force to measure progress toward achieving their five-year average target of 1,900 square miles or smaller by 2035. The cruise provides a one-time snapshot of the dead zone; the five-year average captures the dynamic and changing nature of the zone over time.

“Yearly measurements enable us to help decision-makers fine tune strategies to reduce the size of the hypoxic zone in these waters and mitigate harmful impacts to our coastal resources and economy,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “While some hypoxia is natural, the size and scale of what we’ve seen here in the last several decades is unusually large and detrimental. Our measurements and analyses can empower communities to take action to protect their coasts and contribute to the region’s economic sustainability.” In June, NOAA forecasted an average-sized hypoxic zone of 5,364 square miles, based primarily on Mississippi River discharge and nutrient runoff data from the U.S. Geological Survey. The measured size fell within the uncertainty range for the models which factors in some of the inherent environmental variability of the system such as the below average river discharge over the summer. This demonstrates the overall accuracy of the models and their ability to be applied as tools for nutrient reduction strategies. “This summer was an unusual year for Gulf hypoxia,” said Nancy Rabalais, Ph.D. professor at Louisiana State University and LUMCON, who is the principal investigator. “The Mississippi River discharge was below the continued on page 24


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continued from page 23 summer average. The lower flow is unable to support the normal layering of the water column, allowing dissolved oxygen from the surface waters to diffuse more easily to the seabed. The ecosystem subject to hypoxia was characterized by lower turbidity, lower algal biomass, lower nutrients and higher salinity in the surface waters.”

Excess nutrients stimulate algal growth Each year, excess nutrients from cities, farms and other sources in upland watersheds drain into the Gulf and stimulate algal growth during the spring and summer. The algae eventually die, sink and decompose. Throughout this process, oxygen-consuming bacteria decay the algae and consume the oxygen. The resulting low oxygen levels near the bottom are insufficient to support most marine life, rendering the habitat unusable and forcing species to move to other areas to survive. Exposure to hypoxic waters has been found to alter fish diets, growth rates, reproductionoffsite link, habitat use and availability of commercially harvested species like offsite linkshrimp. This year, for the first time, scientists from NOAA Fisheries and North Carolina State University began using an experimental model to better understand where shrimp could be found relative to the hypoxic zone.

Investments in understanding and addressing hypoxia The Hypoxia Task Force is accelerating progress in reducing excess nutrients in the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin by promoting collaboration among federal partners, states, farmers and other stakeholders. “The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is a stark reminder that water quality and land stewardship go hand in hand,” said Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “At EPA, we recognize this and are investing $60 million through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in work that states are doing to reduce excess nutrients that feed the dead zone.”


In June, the EPA announced $60 million over the next five years to fund nutrient reduction efforts through the Gulf Hypoxia Program. The funding will significantly expand and enhance the capacity of the states to improve water quality in the Gulf and throughout the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin. To support the work of the Hypoxia Task Force, EPA will also deepen its existing collaborations with the agricultural community, seek new partnerships and identify and elevate examples of producer innovation. “Hypoxia Task Force states are focused on implementing our statebased and science-driven nutrient reduction strategies and scaling up and accelerating the adoption of proven water quality and conservation practices. The addition of new partnerships with both public and private partners in both urban and rural settings will pay big water-quality dividends in the future,” said Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and co-chair of the Hypoxia Task Force. “We know that innovative changes on the land lead to positive changes in the water, and these investments benefit communities across our states and our neighbors downstream. As we take on this challenge and carry out our work in priority watersheds across the Mississippi River Basin in the years ahead, we are grateful to EPA and our other partners who provide needed support for these important efforts.” NOAA continues to support monitoring and research efforts to understand the dead zone as well as to study the impacts of hypoxia on fish and fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere through its Coastal Hypoxia Research Program and the Northern Gulf Institute. LUMCON’s Gulf Hypoxia website has additional graphics and information about current and previous research missions.



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Arlington, VA – The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Menhaden Management Board approved Draft Addendum I to Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden for public comment. The Draft Addendum considers potential changes to Amendment 3 provisions for commercial allocations, the episodic event set aside (EESA) program, and the incidental catch and small-scale fisheries (IC/SSF) provision.

The Draft Addendum will be posted to the website next week at http:// A subsequent press release will provide the details on the public hearing schedule and how to submit written comments. The Board will meet to review submitted comment and consider final action on the addendum in November at the Commission’s Annual Meeting in New Jersey.

The Board initiated Draft Addendum I in August 2021 in response to the recommendations of a Board work group charged with evaluating provisions of the current management program and providing strategies to refine those provisions. Since Amendment 3 was adopted in 2017, the EESA and IC/SSF provisions have been impacted by recent trends in landings. The impacts have been most notable in New England, which has seen an increase in abundance of menhaden and demand for bait in recent years. New England states rely on the EESA to keep their commercial fisheries open while working to secure quota transfers. In addition the increases have led to a rise in landings under the IC/SSF provision once commercial quotas have been met. The options in the Draft Addendum aim to align state quotas with recent landings and resource availability while maintaining access to the resource for all states, reduce dependence on quota transfers, and minimize regulatory discards.

The Board also reviewed the results of the 2022 Atlantic Menhaden Stock Assessment Update, which indicates the resource is not overfished nor experiencing overfishing relative to the current ecological reference points (ERPs). In 2021, population fecundity, a measure of reproductive capacity, is above both the ERP threshold and target and total fishing mortality is below both the ERP threshold and target. The stock assessment update extended the 2019 Atlantic Menhaden Single-Species Benchmark Stock Assessment model with additional years of data from 2018-2021 and made some changes to the model structure. Work is also underway for an Atlantic Menhaden-specific ERP Benchmark Assessment, which is scheduled for completion in 2023.

Stock Assessment Update

The Draft Addendum’s proposed options consider changes to the baseline quota of 0.5% and the time series that apportions the remaining quota to each jurisdiction, which is currently historic landings from 2009 to 2011. Furthermore, options within the Draft Addendum consider giving the Board the ability to change the proportion of the EESA from 1% up to 5%, with the option to make the potential change static with the approval of the Draft Addendum or dynamic such that the Board can reset it during the specification process. The Draft Addendum proposes a number of options to modify the IC/SSF provision in four major categories: the timing of the provision, permitted gear types, trip limits for permitted gear types, and catch accounting for the provision.


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The Committee will make recommendations for Saltonstall-Kennedy priorities and grant award funding. NOAA Fisheries is calling for applications for the new American Fisheries Advisory Committee. The Committee was established by the American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act in May 2022 to make recommendations for Saltonstall-Kennedy priorities and grant award funding. The Act requires the establishment of a 22-member committee with three representatives from each of six regions. Members will represent seafood sectors, including processors, recreational and commercial fishermen and seafood farmers, fisheries scientists, and regional fishery management council members. Additionally, there will be four at-large members, including one representative each from the retail and marketing sector, commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries, and NOAA Fisheries. “The new American Fisheries Advisory Committee will bring together a wide breadth of industry and stakeholder representatives from around the country to thoughtfully consider program priorities and make recommendations for the awarding of funds for Saltonstall-Kennedy


Photo: NOAA Fisheries

grants,” said NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator, Janet Coit. “NOAA Fisheries is pleased to assist Secretary Gina Raimondo with the process of identifying candidates, and I encourage anyone who is interested in providing input on priority fisheries research and development projects to please apply.”

Who Can Serve on the Committee?

Members will be selected so that the committee will represent as many seafood species as practicable. The committee will be composed of 22 members. There will be three members from each region (18 total): • • •

One seafood harvester or processor One recreational or commercial fisherman or seafood farmer One representative of the fisheries science community or the relevant regional fishery management council

There will be four at-large members: continued on page 29

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• •

One individual with experience in food distribution, marketing, retail, or food service One individual with experience in the recreational fishing industry supply chain, such as fishermen, manufacturers, retailers, and distributors One individual with experience in the commercial fishing industry supply chain, such as fishermen, manufacturers, retailers, and distributors One employee of NOAA Fisheries with expertise in fisheries research

Committee Regions • • • • • •

Alaska, Hawaii, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania

Committee Responsibilities

The committee is responsible for making recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce for financial assistance awards under the Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Competition. The committee will also make recommendations to the Secretary to assist in the development of the annual Notice of Funding Opportunities for submission to the Grant Competition. This may include: • • •

Identifying the needs of the fishing communities (program priorities) Establishing individual award funding limits Specifying the application review criteria and selection processes, and other sections of the Notice of Funding Opportunities as appropriate and allowable

NOAA Fisheries will coordinate the technical reviews of the grant applications prior to work done by the Committee.

Committee Meeting Frequency

The committee will meet no more than twice per year. We anticipate that meetings will be in person, rotating between committee regions, and lasting up to 4 business days.

for all membership cycles going forward with respective dates to be determined.

Application Schedule and Details Applications may be submitted to nmfs.afac.nominations@ from August 10, 2022 until September 24, 2022.

Application Requirements Each applicant must submit the following in PDF format: •

A cover letter that includes a brief statement of the applicant’s interest in serving on the Committee and their qualifications A resume/CV that details the applicant’s contact information (address, telephone number, email address) and specific qualifications and expertise as referenced in the Act

The selection process will be based on thorough vetting of all nominees, who will be appointed by the Secretary of Commerce through delegated authority to the NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator. The Secretary will announce regional and at-large members of the committee by December 1, 2022.

Saltonstall-Kennedy Funds Saltonstall-Kennedy funds are used to provide grants or cooperative agreements for fisheries research and development projects addressing aspects of U.S. fisheries. This includes harvesting, processing, marketing, and associated business infrastructures. The grants and cooperative agreements are made on a competitive basis to execute projects that optimize the economic benefits of building and maintaining sustainable fisheries and practices, dealing with the impacts of conservation and management measures, and increasing other opportunities to support working waterfronts.

More Information • •

Requests for Nominations: American Fisheries Advisory Committee Saltonstall-Kennedy Research and Development Program

Committee Member Terms

Committee member terms will be staggered. One third of all members will serve an initial term of 2 years, one third an initial term of 3 years, and one third an initial term of 4 years. This will be followed by 3-year terms for each member thereafter. The established nomination and selection processes will be applied



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NOAA FISHERIES PROPOSES CHANGES TO COD AND HADDOCK RECREATIONAL REGULATIONS The recreational fishery for Gulf of Maine cod and haddock is managed under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The FMP provides the Regional Administrator authority, in consultation with the New England Fishery Management Council, to develop recreational management measures to ensure that the recreational catch limits for these stocks are achieved, but not exceeded. We project that current measures for Gulf of Maine cod and haddock can be liberalized without the 2022 recreational fishery’s allocations being exceeded. After consultation with the Council, we have implemented changes to Gulf of Maine cod and haddock management measures as recommended by the New England Fishery Management Council.

HADDOCK Possession Limit

COD Minimum Open Season Size (inches)

Possession Limit

Minimum Open Season Open Season Size (inches) (Private) (For-Hire)

Proposed Measures



May – February 28, April 1 – 30



September September 1 – October 1 – October 7, April 1 – 7, April 1 – 14 14

Current Measures



May – February 28, April 15 -30



September September 15 – 30, 8 – October April 1 – 14 7, April 1 – 14


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RFA NEWS BRIEFS FRED GOLOFARO’S SEND A KID FISHING PROGRAM CONTINUES ON After the sudden passing of Fred Golofaro, the fate of the Send A Kid Fishing (SAKF) program was uncertain. The Golofaro family recently announced that Send A Kid Fishing Sportfishing Fund, a 501c3, will live on as they carry forward Fred’s special project that he tended to for 30 years. Having sent more than 15,000 kids on free fishing trips, their mission is to continue to expose and educate the future generations about the world of fishing and conservation. They are working on accepting electronic payments for donations but in the meantime, donations by check can be sent to: Send A Kid Fishing, PO BOX 21, Patchogue, NY 11772. For more information about the program and to inquire about a trip for your group, please check out SAKF’s website at and email program director Paul Golofaro at Paul@SendAKidFishing.Com. A very special thank you for the continued support from generous donors as they enter the 31st season of sending kids fishing.

NOW OPEN: BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE LAW GRANT OPPORTUNITY FOR MARINE DEBRIS REMOVAL The NOAA Marine Debris Program is pleased to announce our Fiscal Year 2022 NOAA Marine Debris Removal notice of funding opportunity. Funding for this opportunity is provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The NOAA Marine Debris Program will award up to $56 million to fund projects that remove marine debris to benefit marine and Great Lakes habitats and communities. This competition focuses on two priorities: removing large marine debris and using proven interception technologies to capture marine debris throughout the coastal United States, Great Lakes, territories, and Freely Associated States.

NOAA recognizes the need to adapt with a changing climate and the evolving needs of recreational fisheries and anglers. With the perspectives shared during the 2022 National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit, NOAA Fisheries requests your input on revising the Policy during the public comment period of August 1 – December 31, 2022. The Policy serves as a platform to help the public understand NOAA Fisheries’ perspectives and approaches to recreational fisheries issues. Developed with extensive public input, the 2015 Policy reflects the priorities of the day. Its goals and principles help guide Agency deliberations with regard to supporting and maintaining high quality sustainable saltwater recreational fisheries. “Recreational anglers are one of NOAA Fisheries key constituencies”, said Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Janet Coit. “I am eager for input from our partners and the public to help us shape how NOAA Fisheries advances sustainable recreational fishing opportunities at a time when ocean uses and ecosystems are changing rapidly.”


Please visit this website to provide feedback on any changes or updates you would like to suggest for the Policy. The website will also show dates for public meetings and webinars when they are confirmed.


The red snapper season in the South Atlantic has been exceedingly short over the last several years, in part due to the inability of the federal Marine Recreational Information Program to effectively estimate not only how many fish are landed, but also how many are released.

To get a better handle on the number of anglers targeting reef fish offshore to improve harvest and discard estimates, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is considering the development of a federal fishing license for anglers who bottom fish in federal waters.

While a federal license would help in identifying the universe of anglers who bottom fish in the region, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has concerns it will do little to improve overall management of reef fish species in the region.

Proposals are due on on September 30, 2022, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.


Grant applicant guidance and resources are now available on the NOAA Marine Debris Program website.

NOAA FISHERIES INVITES COMMENTS TO UPDATE RECREATIONAL FISHERIES POLICY Saltwater recreational fishing is a traditional American pastime integral to social, cultural, and economic life in coastal communities across the nation. This time-honored activity allows millions to access America’s great outdoors each year, while generating billions of dollars in economic activity. The National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy is essential to shaping NOAA Fisheries’ approach to recreational fishermen and their fisheries.

Why It Matters: The federal Marine Recreational Information Program that collects private recreational angler catch data across multiple species and geographic areas is a useful survey for general trends in fish populations but is not at the scale necessary to effectively survey reef fish anglers in the South Atlantic. As a potential solution, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is exploring the possibility of implementing a new federal reef fish permit. While understanding how many anglers are targeting reef fish is important for stock assessment purposes, questions remain as to whether a federal permit is the right option for ultimately improving management and extending seasons for South Atlantic anglers.

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The South Atlantic Snapper Grouper Recreational Permitting and Reporting Technical Advisory Panel met virtually last week to discuss moving forward with a federal reef fish license for anglers in the region. The intended purpose of the permit is to determine the number of anglers, or private vessels, that target reef fish in order to get better estimates of landings, discards and improve management. The federal Marine Recreational Information Survey (MRIP) was not designed to capture this information, and the broad nature of MRIP’s general survey across multiple species and geographic areas leads to a lot of uncertainty in the estimates of reef fish catch and effort currently. In turn, this has resulted in short seasons for red snapper due to the large number of fish that are estimated to be caught and released throughout the year, a portion of which do not survive. Trying to refine these discards estimates by determining how many anglers surveyed by MRIP actually target red snapper and other reef fish has been the catalyst for the possibility of a federal permit. However, during the discussion, there was a key question raised as to whether a federal private angler (or vessel) permit is the best option for improving both data and management. What data, beyond the universe of reef fish anglers, is necessary to truly make a difference in the management of red snapper and other bottom fish in the South Atlantic? “I’m skeptical that a new federal fishing license is the answer to the shortcomings of the federal MRIP system,” said Chris Horton, Senior Director of Fisheries Policy for CSF. “Most anglers are likely to feel more confident obtaining an offshore license and reporting their catch through their state agency. On top of that, developing a state-based system to supplement MRIP like those in the Gulf of Mexico would be more efficient at not only identifying reef fish anglers, but what they are catching in real time as well. The latter has implications for better in-season management in the long run.” The potential federal permit, under Snapper Grouper Amendment 46, will be before the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council at the September 12 – 16 meeting in Charleston, South Carolina.

FWC ISSUES EXECUTIVE ORDER TO MODIFY 2022-23 RECREATIONAL SEASON FOR GREATER AMBERJACK IN GULF STATE WATERS At its July meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued an executive order to modify the 2022-23 recreational season for greater amberjack in state waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The 2022 recreational season for greater amberjack in Gulf state waters will be open Sept. 1 - Oct. 31. The Gulf greater amberjack stock is overfished and experiencing overfishing and the recreational season modification is consistent with an Emergency Rule recommended by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in Gulf federal waters. Consistent state and federal recreational seasons for greater amberjack would help prevent quota overages and mitigate risks of paybacks and seasonal closures. For more information, including the July 2022 Commission meeting presentation, visit and click on “Commission Meetings.”

For current recreational amberjack regulations, visit and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Amberjack.” This page will be updated with the new season dates.

FWC APPROVES FINAL RULE TO MODIFY GAG GROUPER RECREATIONAL SEASON IN GULF STATE WATERS At its July meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a final rule, effective January 1, 2023, modifying the recreational season for gag grouper in state waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The recreational season for gag grouper in Gulf state waters will be open Sept. 1 – Nov. 10. This modification for gag grouper in Gulf state waters is intended to prevent overfishing, improve stock abundance and help ensure future gag fishing opportunities. This change is consistent with pending regulations in adjacent federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. The FWC is committed to collecting critical recreational harvest fishing data to inform management of gag grouper, in addition to other reef fish. The State Reef Fish Survey uses in-person interviews and a mail survey to collect information on recreational fishing for reef fish, such as gag grouper, from private boats. These methods provide the FWC with a clearer picture of the health of reef fish stocks throughout the state and help ensure the long-term sustainability of recreational fishing in Florida. The State Reef Fish Angler designation is required for recreational anglers and spearfishers who intend to fish for or harvest certain reef fish species from a private vessel in Florida. This designation makes recreational anglers eligible for selection to receive a mail survey component of the State Reef Fish Survey. To learn more about the State Reef Fish Survey, visit For more information, including the July 2022 Commission meeting presentation, visit and click on “Commission Meetings.” For current recreational gag grouper regulations, visit Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations”, “Reef Fish” and then “Grouper.” This page will be updated with regulation modifications.


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Woods Hole, MA — The Slope Sea off the Northeast United States is a major spawning ground for Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), a new paper affirms. This finding likely has important implications for population dynamics and the survival of this fish, according to the paper, “Support for the Slope Sea as a major spawning ground for Atlantic bluefin tuna: evidence from larval abundance, growth rates, and particle-tracking simulations,” published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. “Overall, our results provide important supporting evidence that the Slope Sea is a major spawning ground that is likely to be important for population dynamics,” the paper states. Spawning in the Slope Sea “may offer the species additional resilience in the face of both harvesting and climate change,” the paper adds. The paper presents larval evidence supporting the recognition of the Slope Sea as a major spawning ground, including that larvae collected in the Slope Sea grew at the same rate as larvae collected in the Gulf of Mexico, indicating that this region is good larval habitat. “In comparison to everything else we know about this species, the Slope Sea is a perfectly good place to be born as a larva,” said lead author Christina Hernández, who was a doctoral student in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science and Engineering at the time of the study. “The larvae are growing at a similar rate in the Slope Sea as they are in the Gulf of Mexico, at least in the year [of sampling], which suggests that the Slope Sea is providing completely suitable and adequate habitat for larval growth and development,” she said. The researchers used plankton nets to collect larvae in the Slope Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, and they analyzed and compared larval growth in the two regions by studying larval otoliths, which are small bones found in the heads of tuna. Researchers also conducted larval transport simulations to estimate the movement of larvae floating in ocean currents forward and backward in time to evaluate the origin of the larvae and their fate. The prevailing understanding has been that Atlantic bluefin tuna comprise two populations with strong natal homing to spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea. However, there has long been speculation that spawning may occur in other regions, and a 2016 paper

demonstrated a bluefin tuna spawning ground in the Slope Sea. The Slope Sea is a wedge of ocean that is bounded by the U.S. shelf break and the Gulf Stream as it moves away from the U.S. east coast. “In the 2016 paper, we proposed that the Slope Sea is a third major spawning ground for bluefin tuna. The additional sampling, reported in this new paper, confirmed that bluefin larval abundances in the Slope Sea are comparable to levels typically found in the Gulf of Mexico. Moreover, bluefin tuna larvae in the Slope Sea were found to grow at similar rates to those in the Gulf of Mexico,” said David Richardson, research fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Richardson is the lead author of the 2016 paper and co-author of the new paper. “This work emphasizes the importance of the Slope Sea as a spawning ground and highlights the need for further bluefin tuna research in this region,” Richardson said. The paper notes that the response to the discovery of the Slope Sea spawning area has been mixed, with some scientists expressing skepticism about the origin of larvae or stating that the classification of the Slope Sea as a spawning ground has been premature. Further study of larvae and spawning adults in the region should be prioritized to support management decisions,” the paper states. “We need as much information as we can get about bluefin tuna so that we can improve management models and improve the sustainable management of our fisheries,” Hernández said. “I hope that this study helps to gain more acknowledgement of the Slope Sea as a spawning area and more funding for further research in this region.” Ship time for this research was supported by NOAA, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the U.S. Navy through interagency agreements for the Atlantic Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species. Christina Hernández and Joel Llopiz received funding from WHOI’s Ocean Life Institute and Academic Programs Office. Hernández was additionally supported by the Adelaide and Charles Link Foundation and the J. Seward Johnson Endowment in support of WHOI’s Marine Policy Center. Irina Rypina, Ke Chen, and Llopiz were supported by a U.S. National Science Foundation grant. Llopiz was additionally supported by the Lenfest Fund for Early Career Scientists and the Early Career Scientist Fund at WHOI.


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OCEAN MODELS HELP LINK ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS TO A FISHERY STOCK ASSESSMENT We are one step closer to using ocean and climate information to improve stock assessments and management measures. NOAA scientists used ocean models to develop more detailed information about a seasonal, offshore cold-water mass called the “cold pool.” They helped unlock a mystery: why have yellowtail flounder off southern New England and the Mid-Atlantic not rebounded despite nearly 30 years of recovery efforts? They have linked fluctuations in this oceanographic phenomenon, the “cold pool,” to fluctuations in numbers of new, young fish entering this hard-pressed stock. Further, they show that incorporating this new information into the stock assessment improves the results. It reduces the uncertainty around estimates of spawning stock and incoming numbers of young fish (called “recruitment”). These are important indicators for fishery managers developing measures to promote recovery. “Although there is still a long way to go, our study constitutes a new step toward climate-ready fisheries management,” said lead author Hubert du Pontavice. Du Pontavice is a post-doctoral research associate at the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at Princeton University and is affiliated with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. The study was published recently in the ICES Journal of Marine Science.


Co-author Vincent Saba explains that the results showed “a cooler and more persistent cold pool is associated with higher recruitment into this yellowtail population.” Saba is a Northeast Fisheries Science Center fishery biologist, who works at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University. The most recent stock assessment update for this stock identified recruitment failure as a grave concern. It said that “Should this pattern of poor recruitment continue into the future, the ability of the stock to recover could be compromised.” Researchers recommended further investigation of some of the underlying ecological mechanisms of poor recruitment, including the cold pool and Gulf Stream, to better understand future prospects for the stock. To make the connection between cold pool dynamics and recruitment, the researchers first used ocean models to better characterize the cold pool from 1972 to 2019. Then, they linked the resulting information to variations in the number of 1-year-old fish coming into the population in each of those years. Finally, they added this information into a number of stock assessment models for this stock to test what happened when environmental conditions were included in the analysis.

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Photo: Yellowtail flounder on a sandy bottom photographed by a towed sampling array called HabCam. Photo Courtesy Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Describing the Cold Pool During summer and fall, a layer of cold water is trapped on the ocean bottom over parts of the continental shelf from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Just how cold, how large, and for how long the cold pool persists varies throughout the season and among years. Researchers already knew that the cold pool likely affected the survival of newly spawned yellowtail. Yellowtail eggs float on the ocean’s surface for about 2 months after they are spawned in the spring, then settle into the cold pool if it is present, to feed and grow. To directly compare cold pool characteristics and recruitment over time, researchers needed a full series of data on cold pool variation over time. To get this time series, the scientists developed three new indices to measure the cold pool: size, duration, and magnitude (temperature). Accounting for the fluctuations of the cold pool is challenging in part because researchers generally do so using ocean bottom temperatures measured directly, usually during at-sea ecosystem surveys. These surveys do not occur year-round, and they can be interrupted for various reasons, leaving data gaps. To supplement the data obtained during surveys, these researchers used two estimates of monthly bottom temperature for 1972 to 2019. This is the same time frame covered by the most recent assessment for this stock. The estimates were generated using ocean models that can assimilate observed temperature data and fill in missing data.

Temperature map of a strong cold pool in 2006. The color represents the mean seafloor temperature in June, July, and August. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Hubert du Pontavice

Linking to Stock Assessments The researchers then tested what happened when the cold pool effects on recruitment were incorporated into estimates of spawning stock size and recruitment. Colleagues Tim Miller and Brian Stock helped incorporate the cold pool effects into a new stock assessment model they developed that can account for environmental factors. When cold pool effects on yellowtail flounder recruitment were included, estimates for the most recent years and for projections of future recruitment and spawning stock biomass became more certain. The assessment models performed better when only the observation-based index was used. “This work is an important step in improving our understanding of climate drivers on the productivity of fish stocks,” said Miller. While this study focused on cold pool effects on yellowtail flounder, it paves the way for factoring other environmental data into stock assessments. NOAA scientists are using the same assessment tools to investigate effects of environmental factors on other fish species at various life stages, and availability of the fish to our surveys. Researchers plan to use these tools to study other types of temperature effects on stocks such as American plaice, winter flounder, and Atlantic cod.

“Ocean models can help fill in the gaps when observations are limited. They can produce daily cold pool indices, which is not possible using only observations,” explains Saba.


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THAT’S WHAT FISH ARE FOR Sea Tow members are always serviced first! Sea Tow Supports the Recreational Fishing Alliance. RFA members get a 15% discount on their Sea Tow membership. Use discount code: RFA Why wait? Join today! Sea Tow Atlantic City 609-266-1984 \ 38


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ACTIONS TO ADDRESS FINDINGS OF THE 2022 NATIONAL RECREATIONAL FISHERIES SUMMIT NOAA Fisheries is undertaking an extensive public review of the 2015 National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy and many other projects to address input received at the 2022 National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit. NOAA Fisheries and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission co-hosted the 4th National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit in March 2022. The 2-day Summit brought together members of the marine recreational fishing community with fishery scientists and managers from the states, regional fishery management councils, interstate marine fisheries commissions, and NOAA Fisheries staff. We discussed and collaborated on the most pressing issues facing marine anglers across the country. Summit agenda topics included climate resilient fisheries, balancing ocean uses (with a focus on offshore wind and marine aquaculture), recreational fisheries data, and management of recreational fisheries. The concepts and ideas we discussed provide important information and reference points for us all, as we pursue the common goal of improving marine recreational fisheries. The final report for the 2022 Summit can be found here. NOAA Fisheries is committed to advancing the issues discussed during the Summit and we have already made progress. Immediately following the Summit, NOAA’s Recreational Fisheries Initiative partnered with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center to address known data gaps. We funded cooperative sampling of recreationally important species of West Coast rockfish with the Sportfishing Association of California. We are partnering with the non-profit organization Academic Anglers through our Southeast Regional Office to support fishing clinics for disadvantaged youth. We are also working with the Alaska Regional Office to address postrelease mortality by distributing fish descending devices and educational materials, among other projects. In addition to these immediate responses, we will undertake an extensive review of the 2015 National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy. We are initiating a series of discussions with our partners and the fishing public in the second half of 2022 with the goal of issuing an updated policy in 2023. This inclusive public process will help to ensure that our work to support and maintain enduring, sustainable, and high-quality saltwater recreational fisheries remains on course. Stay tuned for more information on how to engage in this effort. Below are a series of additional actions being taken by NOAA Fisheries to advance issues identified at the 2022 Summit. These projects are not an endpoint. They are a continuation of our commitment to improve life on the water for anglers and are the next steps in the ongoing process.


Climate and Sustainability • • • •

• •

Finalize Climate Science Strategy Regional Action Plans Initiate a climate vulnerability assessment for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Partner with councils and commissions to conduct climate scenario planning exercises Advance the Northeast Federal Survey Mitigation plan, establish monitoring standards, and assess impacts of offshore wind energy infrastructure on surveys Distribute fish descending devices and educational materials to reduce post-release mortality Host constituent focused fisheries habitat workshops to identify concerns and shared priorities in the Southeast

Data and Surveys • • • •

• •

Produce a new national 5-year strategic plan for recreational data collection Complete data collections for the National Recreational Angler Expenditure Surveys Implement Access Point Angler Intercept Survey in Hawai‘i Update the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species and finalize the Alaska Regional Marine Recreational Information Program Implementation Plans Respond to the final report of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee’s task force on recreational electronic reporting Continue to develop and implement transition plans for the implementation of new and modified survey designs (e.g, Gulf of Mexico, Hawai’i, and California) Partner with non-commercial and recreational fishermen to collect mahi-mahi stomachs and analyze their diet in Hawai’i

Management and Policy • • •

• •

Initiate development of guidance on inter-council governance issues Publish a technical memorandum on management of data poor species Advance adaptive management approaches through direct support of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s joint Recreational Fisheries Reform Initiative Investigate feasibility of a pilot fish-tag management program in the Southeast Consider further how to make progress on equity and environmental justice goals, including better understanding non-commercial and subsistence fisheries continued on page 41

continued from page 40

Partnership and Engagement • • • •

Engage council and commission partners in review of the National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy Continue to support habitat conservation and angler engagement projects through the National Fish Habitat Partnership Advance inclusivity and conservation education including through support of the Bristol Bay Fly Fishing & Guide Academy Support the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s assessment of constituent confidence of federal data and science Characterize recreational and non-commercial fishing communities in Hawai‘i to enhance fisher engagement and understanding of these fisheries Undertake collaborative marine water quality data collection with for-hire and commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico

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If you would like additional information about any of these projects, contact your regional recreational coordinator. NOAA Fisheries is excited to continue our collaboration with the recreational fishing community and implement these projects and more.

SNAPPER GROUPER AMENDMENT 46 South Atlantic Fishery Management Council AMENDMENT SUMMARY Purpose of the Amendment: Address deficiencies in recreational data through the creation of a permit and reporting requirement for private recreational vessels.

Action Summary: This amendment will investigate requiring a permit for anglers to participate in the recreational snapper grouper fishery and whether there will be or what type of trip reporting requirements would be required for anglers to participate in the snapper grouper fishery.

Key Events: •

• • •

November 2020: Council discussed during November 9, 2020, webinar and opted to suspend work on the amendment. The Council directed staff to convene a workgroup to include state and MRIP representatives, and Council staff to explore approaches for a private recreational permit and reporting requirements in the South Atlantic region. The workgroup has convened twice during 2021. December 2021: The Council requested that discussion on this amendment be added to the March 2022 agenda. March 2022: Council reviewed background information and identify where the Council left off when work was suspended on the amendment. June 2022: Ad hoc AP appointed and will meet prior to the September 2022 Council meeting.

Most recent amendment document • • • • • • • •

Snapper Grouper Amendment 46 Options Paper Final approval Implementation Pre-scoping Public hearing Rule making Scoping Secretarial review

Public comments • •

submit comment Read comments

Staff Contact

John Hadley Fishery Management Plan Coordinator & Fishery Economist


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FWC APPROVES CHANGES FOR REDFISH IN STATE WATERS FOLLOWING FINAL RULE HEARING At its July meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved new management regions and regulation changes for redfish in state waters following the final rule hearing. These regulation changes, which go into effect Sept. 1, 2022, will: • •

Establish nine redfish management regions. Prohibit captain and crew from retaining a bag limit of redfish when on a for-hire trip. • Reduce the off-the-water transport limit from six to four fish per person. • Reduce the vessel limit in each of the management regions to be: • Panhandle, Big Bend, Northeast: four fish. • Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Southwest, Southeast: two fish. • Allow only catch-and-release fishing for redfish in the Indian River Lagoon region. • Set the bag limit to one fish in the Panhandle, Big Bend, Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Southwest, Southeast and Northeast regions. • This is a reduction to the bag limit in the Northeast region. “With this new forward-thinking management approach, we’re trying to do what’s best for this fishery. This agency is committed to working proactively to conserve the redfish fishery in Florida for future generations while balancing stakeholder interests,” said FWC Commissioner Steven Hudson. The changes to redfish management regions and regulations, as part of FWC’s new management approach, will better capture regional differences and improve angler satisfaction. The new management approach includes annual reviews of the redfish fishery and redfish regulations may be changed each year in response to the reviews. For more information, including the July 2022 Commission meeting presentation, visit and click on “Commission Meetings.” For current recreational redfish regulations, visit and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Redfish.” This page will be updated with the new regulations when they take effect.




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SUSTAINING PARTNERSHIPS Sustaining Partners are the backbone of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) and provide us with a steady source of revenue so we can do our job and protect our community’s right to fish. As a Sustaining Partner, your recurring contribution not only puts your organization in front of a national audience, but it’s your badge of honor, demonstrating your support for the RFA’s goals and objectives. We need your help to keep moving our shared agenda forward on both a state and national level, working to protect your rights as saltwater anglers. Most importantly, Sustaining Partners have the satisfaction of knowing they are always actively doing their part to keep RFA thriving. Saltwater fishing is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the United States. In 2021, more than 14.5 million Americans flocked to the nation’s waterways to engage in saltwater fishing activities, marking the highest fishing participation rate in over a decade. Saltwater fishing participation continued its upward trend, growing nearly 3% per year for the each of the last three years. ( At RFA, we are launching a freemium membership providing Sustaining Partners reach to potentially 14.5 million saltwater anglers in the United States through RFA’s communications, social media, website, fishing tournaments, boat shows and other opportunities. The recreational saltwater fishing sector in the United States was valued at $72 billion with another $41 billion in value-added (noaa. gov 2018) illustrating fishing enthusiasts’ strong economic impact in their communities and the need for the RFA to continue to battle the policies that will impact the industry.

RFA Fast Facts • • • • • •

According to our recent survey, 73% of RFA Supporters fish 25 to 50 days per year vs the 13.1 days per year national average 34% fish 50 or more days per year 66% earn more than $50K, 31% earn more than $100K 71% of RFA Supporters own a boat 70% fish the Mid-Atlantic Region (NY-NC) Saltwater anglers are 69% Male & 31% Female

Please join as a Sustaining Partner by contacting Rob Nixon at or by calling 609.582.8280.



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OUR MISSION Anti-fishing groups and radical environmental interests are pushing an agenda on marine fisheries issues affecting America’s saltwater anglers. At the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), we’re pushing back to protect your right to fish! Incorporated in 1996 as a 501(c)(4) national, grassroots political action organization, RFA is in the trenches, lobbying, educating decision makers and ensuring that the interests of America’s coastal anglers are being heard loud and clear. Click here to learn more about what we’re up against, and why joining the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is so important when it comes to protecting your right to fish. As your watchdog, RFA understands what recreational fishing is worth to you – we were founded specifically to represent recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues on every coast, with state chapters established to spearhead the regional issues while building local support for the overall RFA mission:

“To safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs and ensure the long-term sustainability of U.S. saltwater fisheries.”