News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy
About TJ Marshall
TJ Marshall is Ocean Conservancy's Director of Constituent Outreach with a focus on recreational fishing and oil spill restoration in the Gulf of Mexico. Having grown up fishing, surfing, sailing and diving Florida's reefs, TJ connects tourism, government and business leaders to the value of the marine environment beyond the shore. Ironically TJ was born in Chicago and caught his first fish in the mall that Jake & Elwood Blues demolished in the Blues Brothers.
As an avid recreational fisherman, it was a welcomed surprise last week to learn that seven days would be added to one of my favorite times of year: red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico. Historically, red snapper have been severely overfished in the Gulf but are now on their way back. As the fishery and the fishing improve, so is the technology to monitor catches — a critical component to ensure the health of this iconic species.
Way back in the golden era of recreational fishing, shortly after World War II, American prosperity grew and with it came dramatic technological advances in small outboard engines, fiberglass boats, fishing rods and reels. A new era of fishermen was born and the technology for counting catches needed to…well, catch up.
The freedom to fish alone or with a few friends at anytime during a set season and anywhere you can launch a boat or cast from shore is one of the timeless pleasures of recreational fishing. There’s nothing like getting outdoors and catching a few fish. With more fishermen taking more fish out of the water than ever before, we need to make sure fisheries are healthy and have the numbers to support themselves. Individually, sometimes it seems our catch is not equating to too much, yet collectively the numbers really add up. Each one of those days an individual fisherman puts a hook in the water adds up to millions of fishing trips per year. In fact, there were more than 23 million fishing trips last year in the Gulf!
Recently the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) denied emergency changes to management of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, explaining that the requested new rules could result in “unfair and inequitable management.” Fisheries management on the regional level is a very complicated process, but here is an explanation for what is happening:
The proposed emergency rules didn’t have good controls to prevent overfishing, which is a requirement of the nation’s law that governs fisheries (the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act passed in 2006).
Critical to the issue is a previous emergency rule the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council had passed in February 2013, which NMFS approved. Several Gulf states opted to set fishing seasons in their territorial waters (between 3-9 miles from shore depending on the state) that were different than what they had collectively approved at the Gulf Council for the rest of the Gulf’s federal waters.
A friend emailed me a link the other day to an article in the Hispanic Business News entitled “App for Anglers also Helps Fisheries Management”. He asked me, “is this legit?” Yes, it is!
The article describes this cool new smart phone app, called iAngler. IAngler is a smart phone app developed through collaboration between research scientists and anglers. At its heart, iAngler is an effort to engage fishermen into fisheries management. The creation of iAngler was largely driven by the Snook and Gamefish Foundation (SGF), who partnered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for scientific guidance. SGF has developed a fast and easy way for fishermen to make their catch and their fishing experience count. The partnership is already paying off. Information from the program has already been used in FWC’s recent assessment of snook.
As Rick Roberts, Executive Director of SGF says, “we want to promote anglers to keep score of their catch on the water, much like a golfer on the course.” Whether anglers accomplish this via an app for iPhone and android phones or use a simple data card and log the information online from their desktop after a recent fishing trip, the information counts by providing data on angler habits, as well as their catch (or lack thereof), to researchers evaluating stock assessments of a fish.
Being a waterman who has owned boats ranging from catamarans to skiffs throughout my life, I always look forward to the Miami Boat Show — a premier event each year for those of us who love the salt life. Thanks to the generosity of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), Ocean Conservancy was granted a complimentary booth at the show to share our GoodMate “Charting a Course to Clean Water” program made possible by the Brunswick Foundation.
It was inspiring to see the advancements and mindset of the boating and salt life community toward conservation on display throughout the show.
The fiscal cliff is downright scary for the future of conservation in America. We have to get America’s budget in order, but agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Interior have already had to make painful cuts, and another round of across the board cuts to conservation programs will do more harm than good.
For instance, NOAA oversees the scientific collection and analysis of information for offshore fisheries that generate tremendous revenue for the Nation—from the multi-billion dollar recreational fishery in the Gulf of Mexico to the prized commercial fisheries of the North Pacific.
Across-the-board cuts will not only diminish the ability to prevent overfishing and depletion of national fishery resources that are at risk, they create a bottleneck to expand fishing opportunities and grow coastal economies where hard work has been done to rebuild once-depleted fisheries.
Nowhere is the folly of across-the-board cuts to solve the fiscal cliff crisis more apparent than in the U.S. Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Sport Fish Restoration Program. Continue reading »
Fishing from a Stand Up Paddleboard. Photo by TJ Marshall
As a die-hard surfer I’ve picked up just about every kind of board to surf with and one of my favorites is a Stand Up Paddle board (SUP). Recently, my long time “surf brah” Kevin swung over from Orlando wanting to enjoy some small wave fun here in Cocoa Beach but the tide came up and, well, the surf didn’t look to good.
No problem! I grabbed the fishing poles, threw the boards on the truck and we headed over to the Banana River. Kev had been going on flat water crusies every since I gave him a “bro rate” on my old SUP when I stepped up to a new one. Yet he’d never wet a line from one — it was time to change that.
We headed over to my local park that had two boat ramps and a dedicated kayak/SUP ramp, specifically made with a fabric liner so not to damage the numerous yaks and SUPs dropping in the water these days like a concrete boat ramp will do. There were 6 other people launching so we waited our turn to head out into the 1000 Island chain – a great spot for catching redfish, snook, speckled trout and when you’re lucky a fun, fighting tarpon.