Northern Wilds Magazine
Points North

American Sportfishing Association touts its 2016 accomplishments

Last week, the American Sportfishing Association announced its list of the top recreational fishing advocacy accomplishments of 2016.  In some respects, it was a pretty good year.

Topping the list was the December passage of the Outdoor Recreation Economic Impact and Jobs Act of 2016. While this act received little press attention, it’s a big deal for those us involved in the many facets of the outdoor recreation industry, as well as everyone who spends their free time outdoors. The act instructs government statistical agencies, such as the Dept. of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, to produce data and growth estimates for the outdoor recreational sector on a regular basis. This includes more than just fishing and hunting, such as the so-called “nonconsumptive” outdoor activities. Currently, outdoor recreation is estimated to contribute $646 billion to the U.S. economy.

Determining the economic value of outdoor recreation is especially important in the current political climate, with a battle brewing in Congress over the future of our public lands. As has been previously noted in this column, a plank of the GOP party platform calls for transferring public lands to states. Unlike Minnesota, most states don’t have the wherewithal to manage expansive land holdings, so they may be forced to sell them. Land transfers are one of the largest threats the outdoor recreation industry has ever faced. Some outdoor commentators in the West say losing our public lands would end hunting and fishing as we know it. Hard numbers demonstrating the economic importance of outdoor recreation may not change the hearts and minds of those who are trying to take away our public lands (one may wonder if they even have hearts), but data lends important context to the debate.

The sweeping Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act contains numerous provisions to benefit fish and wildlife habitat and improve water quality. The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) touts a portion of the bill authorizing the Central Everglades Planning Project to re-channel freshwater flows in South Florida and restores the Everglades, a natural area that has been devastated by channelization and drainage related to agriculture and development. Much of the act addresses U.S. Army Corps of Engineers activities across the country, but it also contains, among many other things, specific provisions for protecting and improving water quality in the Great Lakes.

Off our coasts, anglers scored a win when two new marine monuments allowed for recreational fishing, which has been banned along with commercial fishing in some previous designations. Both the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, 150 miles off the Massachusetts coast, and the greatly expanded Northwest Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument will allow recreational fishing. While there is general agreement that marine monuments play important roles in marine fisheries conservation by curtailing commercial fishing and other extractive activities, many anglers believe regulated recreational fishing poses no harm to the fisheries and protected resources, and thus can and should be allowed to occur.

The ASA provides less detail regarding new guidelines released by NOAA Fisheries that address marine fisheries management. The new guidelines allow changes to catch limits to be gradually phased in over up to three years as long as overfishing is prevented and increase latitude in setting timelines for rebuilding programs based on the biology of the fish stock. While the sheer scale of marine fisheries is difficult for those of us who think Mille Lacs is big water to comprehend, the abundance of popular ocean species rises and falls based on management decisions.

Close to home, a win for the ASA was the Dept. of Interior’s rejection of the Twin Metals mining leases within the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Quoting from the ASA release: “Starting as a local issue in Minnesota, the threat posed by a sulfide mine in the Boundary Waters watershed propelled this issue to national prominence in 2016. Sometimes called the ‘Yellowstone of the Midwest,’ the Boundary Waters are an angler’s and boater’s paradise. ASA, along with its partners and members as well as Minnesota businesses and anglers and boaters, convinced the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture to deny two mining leases in the area. The decision also started a process to withdraw key portions of the watershed from new mining permits and leases. ASA will continue to advocate during the public comment period in the coming months.”

Heavy metal played a role in another ASA accomplishment, a bill to exempt the Environmental Protection Agency from using funds to regulate fishing tackle for fiscal year 2017. The House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees overseeing this issue passed separate annual budget bills protecting recreational fishing equipment from regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The American Sportfishing Association states that despite petitions to the EPA to ban lead fishing tackle, such tackle has never been documented to have a negative effect on fish and wildlife populations. As anyone who follows this issue knows, the key word here is “populations.” Creatures such as common loons may die from ingesting a lead jig, but the loss of an individual loon doesn’t affect the overall loon population. This is, however, small consolation to the lovers of loons in Minnesota and beyond. It is reasonable to assume the use of lead fishing tackle and ammunition will remain controversial.

While the American Sportfishing Association is satisfied with 2016 accomplishments, it also made note of challenges that lie ahead. High on the list is the bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, which the past three Congresses failed to pass. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act needs to be amended and reauthorized. In doing so, the ASA hopes some problems identified in recreational saltwater fisheries management will be rectified. Although the organization doesn’t mention it, it is certain that shifting political winds in Washington will blow in new challenges and perhaps new opportunities. As always, conservation organizations such as the American Sportfishing Association will have their work cut out for them.

Related posts

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Verified by MonsterInsights