Do We Really Care?

Courtesy NOAA Photo Library

Courtesy NOAA Photo LibraryR

Recreational anglers need to provide constructive input

As New England states continue to try to figure out how to distribute the fisheries “disaster” funding, I keep wondering why the recreational fishing industry/community is being ignored? Is it a self-inflicted wound, or a comprehensive policy to marginalize the industry?

When NOAA announced the $32.8 million in disaster funding, I suggested in an earlier blog that the party/charter industry should be eligible for some funding as they have suffered as well as the commercial users. One response that I got from a member of the commercial fishing industry was that they did not think that was fair, as the $32.8 million had been calculated only on the commercial losses. If true, I buy the argument, but I had to verify the process. However it was calculated, I believe that when public funds are being doled out, all users impacted by the disaster should have an opportunity to share in that funding.

So I contacted the regional administrator for the Greater Atlantic Region Fisheries Office and asked two questions. “The region received$32 million in groundfish disaster funding. Did losses to the recreational fishery factor into getting the $32 million, and will any of the funds be available to help the recreational fisheries sector?”

I received an answer yesterday but cannot say that I found it very satisfactory. “The region received $32.8 million in disaster funding based only on commercial landings data. However, the recreational for-hire sector could be eligible for some funding through the state programs that will distribute some of the disaster funding.”

The first thing that needs to be answered is why the recreational impact was left out of the calculation. I know that for the commercial users, several major organizations worked diligently with GARFO to make sure that their needs were met. There was a proposal for the New England party/charter groundfish fleet, but I am not sure how much follow-up effort was made. I still wonder why the regional office did not include some impact as the regional administrator has on several occasions explained how much economic impact the recreational fishery generates for the nation. Is the outcome intentional or a result of not being in it to win it? Info on the meeting can be found at

The next question is how the recreational industry will be treated at the state level and, looking at the distributions to the states, would Massachusetts be the only possibility? Since, the response indicated that the party/charter users “could” be eligible for funding, the same questions apply here. Are the rec users willing to wade into the process or simply hope that they will get some funding? I believe that the squeaky wheel will get the grease, so IMO the recreational industry may suffer from self-inflicted wounds.

Along the same line, I read a piece on the Marine Recreational Information Program, or MRIP, which has replaced the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistical Survey, by Dr. John Boreman. John is the chair of the MRIP executive steering committee and the former director of NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Science and Technology and Northeast Fisheries Science Center, so he has been around the process for a while. He makes several very good points that tie into the kind of apathy discussed above: “I am very disappointed with the critics of NOAA Fisheries’ MRIP. I have been under the apparent mistaken impression that critics would be doing a better job than they are of finding so-called ‘fatal flaws’ in the program. MRIP staff has challenged them to do so in hopes that a more scientifically robust program would result. Instead, MRIP has been subjected to what amounts to sniping from some people who seemed convinced that any survey system invented by the government is doomed to fail.”

IMO, his comments are spot on. There are a bunch of folks who simply want to tear apart every effort of the government to improve the results of MRIP, complaining all the while that the system is a failure and providing absolutely zero constructive input. We are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Those who simply want to tear down any effort to improve are not only part of the problem; they are the problem. Those who want to make the system work are part of the solution and, in the final analysis, those who really care.

In both of the issues outlined above, the recreational industry is falling short, and the net results will not be beneficial to the industry participants or resource users. We have to do a better job at being part of the constructive process.


"Rip" Cunningham, who owned, published and edited Salt Water Sportsman for 32 years, is also an accomplished writer and photographer. Cunningham has received several awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in such magazines as Field and Stream, Rod and Reel, Gray's Sporting Journal, Australian Boating and the Boston Globe Magazine. Among his many accomplishments, Rip was recognized as the Conservationist of the Year from both the International Game Fish Association, the Coastal Conservation Association of Massachusetts, The Billfish Foundation and Federation of Fly Fishers. "I've earned a living from fishing, and I believe strongly that people with an interest in a given area should give something back,” he says. “It's rewarding every single day." Cunningham received his MBA from Babson College in Wellesley, MA and his BA from Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. He has two grown children and four grand children and lives with his wife and hunting dogs in Dover, MA and Yarmouth, ME. When he's not fishing or working through the items on his wife's "honey-do" list, Cunningham does some hunting and skiing.

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2 comments on “Do We Really Care?
  1. avatar Doug Jowett says:

    Very good read and one close to my thinking. I don’t see any recreational sector that really gets into the fight and that’s just what it is. Staying power and commitment over time gets attention. I am just as guilty myself. At times I get hot under the collar, put in some time to get folks worked up and sometime get results, but most times get shot down. That’s discouraging to say the least. I don’t see any young folks stepping up to fight for the rec side. That’s going to be a disaster in the future as the system is complex. Commercials have lawyers working the system on a regular basis in state capitals and Washington DC.

  2. avatar Eric Wallace says:

    Once again Rip great article!!!!

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