Last Wednesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the 2017 Regional Fishery Management Council (RFMC) appointments. The good news for New York anglers is that Long Islander Steve Heins was among those getting a seat on the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Others included Chester Brewer of Florida to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and Phil Dyskow of Florida, Dr. Bob Shipp of Alabama, and Dr. Greg Stunz of Texas to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. All of these gentleman are well versed in their region’s fisheries and should help provide some balance in the allocation of healthy marine resources.

Of course, it is the Mid Atlantic seat that was of the most concern for New York’s anglers, and we lobbied heavily for Steve’s appointment since his 12th hour decision to throw his name in the ring, which was based largely on his decision to retire this spring from a 31-year career with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Bureau of Marine Resources.

Right from day one, we felt there was no one more qualified to represent this region. Steve had served as the ASMFC designee to Mr. Jim Gilmore, Director of NYDEC’s Bureau of Marine Resources, coordinated the marine finfish and crustacean programs for DEC, and served on ASMFC’s Management and Science Committee and NEAMAP Board. He has also headed New York State’s artificial reef program, and served as past Chair of ASMFC’s Artificial Reef Committee. He has B.S. in Marine Science and an M.S. in Marine Environmental Science from the State University of New York.

He is a life-long angler with a thorough knowledge of both sectors of New York’s fisheries. It is critical that the recreational fishing community have someone like Steve, who understands the needs of recreational anglers and the recreational industry in that obligatory seat, and we are thrilled with his appointment to the Council.

During his tenure with DEC, Steve was instrumental in the development of, and securing funding for, numerous projects, including the Green Island Fishing Access Site; many reef sites including The Fisherman Reef; launch ramps including Mattituck, Captree, Moriches Waterway and Oyster Ponds. He has always made himself available and been a valued source of information to the recreational community for nearly three decades, with a proven track record of working with the New York fishing community to build the consensus required to restore, stabilize and grow our fisheries.

His wealth of experience and those same virtues that made him such an asset with NYDEC, should serve him well in representing New York on the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Congratulations to Steve and thank you to those individuals and organizations that responded to our requests for letters supporting his appointment to a council seat.

The appointments of Heins, Brewer, Dyskow, Shipp and Dr. Stunz appear to reflect a change in the federal government’s attitude toward recreational fishing and boating. Representatives of the recreational fishing and boating industry were quick to praise the latest round of council appointments.

“The recent appointments to the Regional Fishery Management Councils are exactly what the recreational fishing and boating community needed,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “America’s 11 million saltwater recreational anglers have been an afterthought for too long, but thanks to Commerce Secretary Ross, the tide is changing. It is clear the administration is committed to making sure our public resources remain public and that healthy natural resources are available for future generations.”

Mike Nussman, president of the American Sportfishing Association said “These appointments show the current administration understands the need for balance in our fishery management system. Saltwater recreational fishing is the backbone of our industry and supports almost twice as many jobs as the commercial industry. Creating more balanced Councils in these regions was absolutely the right thing to do.”

Nicole Vasilaros, vice president of federal and legal affairs for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, noted that “Wednesday’s appointments demonstrate that Secretary Ross understands that recreational boating and fishing are critical components of the U.S. economy.”