In a group letter to the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, a dozen national recreational boating and fishing organizations officially weighed in on behalf of their constituents in the sportfishing community on federal efforts to designate the Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary.
Writing on behalf of America’s millions of recreational anglers and boaters – along with the fishing tackle and boat manufacturing industries – the American Sportfishing Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, International Game Fish Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Foundation, Marine Retailers Association of America, Coastal Conservation Association, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and BoatU.S. encouraged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to recognize the importance or recreational fishing when determining the boundaries and draft management plan for the proposed sanctuary designation of the Hudson Canyon.
“The Hudson Canyon represents one of the most important and productive recreational fishing grounds on the Eastern Seaboard,” the letter writers stated, adding “We have been pleased with the track record of allowing recreational fishing within National Marine Sanctuaries, with 98 percent of Sanctuary waters open to recreational fishing, and we firmly believe that fisheries management jurisdiction must remain with the regional fishery management councils.”
The national organizations went on to “offer our preliminary support for a marine sanctuary designation at the Hudson Canyon,” but with certain caveats to help memorialize the access rights of recreational fishermen. First, the groups have asked NOAA to conform any sanctuary boundaries to the definition of a submarine canyon defined as a steepsided valley cut into the seabed of the continental shelf, while delineating sanctuary boundaries as follows:
72’30” to the west
72’00” to the east
39’45” to the north
39’20” to the south
“Our proposed demarcation of sanctuary boundaries acknowledges the physical characteristics of the Hudson Canyon while also establishing a geometric sanctuary boundary to facilitate enforcement,” the letter stated.
The groups also asked that no less than three seats on the pre-designation sanctuary advisory council (SAC) be assigned to the recreational fishing community to better represent the recreational fisheries that are pursued at the Hudson Canyon and the diversity in how they operate and which species are targeted. “This diversity cannot be captured through a single recreational seat on the pre-designation SAC,” the groups stated, adding “The predesignation SAC will play a key role in drafting the organizational documents for the sanctuary, and with recreational anglers being the largest stakeholder group in the Hudson Canyon, SAC composition must reflect the magnitude of our sector.” The groups also noted how precedent for multiple recreational angler seats on sanctuary advisory council can be found most recently in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The groups also asked that management jurisdiction with the regional fishery management councils be retained, while and avoiding inclusion of “any management of recreational fishing and those species of fish targeted by recreational fishing in the sanctuary Terms of Designation.” The letter further encouraged NOAA to provide a clear statement within the goals and/or objectives that supports the continuation of recreational fishing within the sanctuary in the sanctuary management plan, while adding that recreational fishing must be identified as a compatible activity within the proposed sanctuary.
“Allow recreational fishing in any areas within the sanctuary established for research purposes unless there is a clearly defined, science-based need for fishing closures and a timeline for recreational fishing to resume,” the groups stated, adding “We also believe collaborative research that uses the expertise of recreational anglers and their vessels would add significant value to the goals and objectives of the sanctuary.”
“It has been demonstrated that recreational fishing and boating within the Hudson Canyon are sustainable activities and consistent with the long-term goals as outlined in the National Marine Sanctuary Act,” the letter stated.
At the New Jersey state level, the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA) submitted comments in opposition to the federal plan. “The NJOA does not support NOAA designating the Hudson Canyon a Marine Sanctuary since NOAA has not made a clear case that it is really needed,” noted NJOA president Ed Markowski. “In addition, NOAA has provided assurance that recreational and commercial fishing would be allowed to continue in the Canyon, but a guarantee is needed before any consideration can be given for our changing our position on making the Hudson Canyon a sanctuary,” he added.
The public comment period for the national marine sanctuary proposal ended in early August, with the comments received (over 15,000 public comments) being now used by NOAA in the development of a draft environmental impact statement on the matter.