FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 16, 2019
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South Atlantic Council Prepared for the Modern Fish Act of 2018
The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2018 (Modern Fish Act), which aims to provide more stability and access to recreational anglers, was signed into law by the President on December 31, 2018. The Act includes improving recreational data collection (through avenues such as smart phone apps), allowing additional management tools that are more appropriate for recreational fishing, and requiring studies of allocations in the South Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico mixed-use fisheries and limited access programs in mixed-use fisheries for all Councils except the Pacific and North Pacific Councils.
The Modern Fish Act affects federally-managed fisheries governed by the eight regional fishery management councils in the U.S. Initially established by the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1976, the Councils, working with NOAA Fisheries and the Department of Commerce, have led the way in establishing fisheries management processes followed around the world today. Approval of the Modern Fish Act was celebrated by the recreational fishing community and allows federal fishery managers to explore novel ideas and partnerships to enhance fisheries management.
“These new tools are something that recreational fishermen have worked on very hard, and we are happy to see it in law,” said Chester Brewer, South Atlantic Council Member.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council began work on management activities for the recreational fishery that align with items outlined in the in the Modern Fish Act as it was being developed. These include:
- MyFishCount– a recreational reporting website and application for smart phones designed to allow anglers to voluntarily report their fishing activity, including numbers of fish harvested, numbers released, depth fished, and other information helpful for management. The pilot project, developed in partnership with the Angler Action Foundation and Elemental Methods, is funded through NOAA Fisheries and has over 800 users to date.
- For-Hire (headboat & charter vessel) Electronic Reporting– federally-permitted headboat captains are currently required to report electronically; expected to begin in 2019, federally permitted charter captains in the South Atlantic region will be required to report trip-level data for all trips and all species electronically on a weekly basis, improving the timeliness and accuracy of data used for fisheries management.
- Collaboration– In 2018, the Council collaborated with and participated in a Recreational Fishing Workshop with the American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, and Yamaha Marine during the October Council meeting. The workshop is part of a 3-phase project to explore approaches for innovative management of the private recreational sector of the South Atlantic Snapper Grouper fishery. Results from the workshop and additional stakeholder meetings will be presented to the Council during its March 2019 meetingon Jekyll Island, Georgia. The Council will consider the results and discuss how to develop a new approach for managing the recreational fishery that aligns with items identified in the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act.
“The Council is very excited to be cooperating with the recreational fishing community to develop this new approach for the Council’s area and we look forward to receiving recommendations from the recreational sector,” said Spud Woodward, South Atlantic Council Member.
“NOAA Fisheries and the Secretary of Commerce are to be commended for funding development of MyFishCount, an app that, when expanded and implemented, could meet the private recreational data reporting requirements of the Modern Fish Act” said Jessica McCawley, Chair of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. “NOAA Fisheries is working to provide additional funding to continue this important program for 2019/20, and the Secretary of Commerce and the NOAA Fisheries Administrator expressed strong support for such programs at the National Recreational Fishing Summit held last year,” McCawley noted.
Council Vice Chair Mel Bell noted the importance of timely, mandatory data reporting. “The State of South Carolina recently moved from their 20+ year, paper-only based for-hire reporting program to include use of an electronic report application that is web-based. With the pending implementation of federal charter vessel reporting, we will have all federal for-hire vessels, and all South Carolina state-only for-hire vessels, reporting electronically,” explained Bell, who also represents the SCDNR Marine Resources Division on the Council. “In addition, MyFishCount provides a method for individual recreational anglers to report electronically, which would help supplement existing data streams and be a much-needed improvement to our understanding of recreational catch information,” according to Bell.
Tune in to the Council’s meeting on Tuesday afternoon, March 5th, to hear the discussions. Materials and webinar registration information will be available from the Council’s websiteon February 15th.