The Kenai River Sportsfishing Association’s executive director will be in Washington, DC later this month. Ricky Gease will join other leaders of recreational fishing organizations across the country to talk about their roles and protections in the Magnuson-Stevens Act. It’s up for reauthorization this year.
Gease wants the best science and information on hand to lead to responsible management of fisheries. All sides, whether it’s commercial or recreational, want their piece of the pie. And Gease said more information is necessary to understand how the current catch limits are affecting the sport fishing industry in Alaska and across the country.
“It could be on harvest levels. NOAA has implemented a really good program. It’s called… the Marine Recreational Information Program. Is there some things on the economic level, are there some things on how we track harvests… data processing? Can we standardize how information is collected from different regions of the country,” he said.
He said more data from other pockets of the country could pave the way for a change in management. Gease mentioned during a recent talk in Homer that he’d rather see slight adjustments in harvest levels than a complete shut-down of certain fisheries. Forced closures last year caused big financial problems for both recreational and commercial operators.
Gease said Alaska has sent out surveys in the past to collect sport fishing information. Researchers sent out questions in 2007 for anglers in three distinct groups: non-residents, residents of Southeast and all other Alaska residents. The anglers were asked which locations they fished at during the 2006 season, by what mode they fished and how much fish they caught and kept for each trip.
Anglers also were asked about their preference for saltwater or freshwater fishing. Gease said there will be another survey sent out next year.
“So these studies can be done every six to seven years and kind of get some baseline trends. How are trending in the sport fishing community? Where are the areas we’re seeing growth? Where are the areas we’re seeing retraction,” he said.
He said having trends and economic data on hand would be useful for other reasons as well. For example, someone may be considering starting a charter business. If a potential guide understands what fish stocks are healthiest and how much it costs to get the business started, that might be the final push they needed, while it might deter others from trying.
“Typically, whether you’re on the sport fish or commercial side on the individual level, you’re looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars. People work many, many years to gather that money. So I think the more… information that we can have it’ll just make for better business decisions,” he said.
His upcoming visit to Washington, DC is part of ongoing discussions by all user-groups about the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The law that regulates federal fisheries was last updated in 2006 and is set to expire in September unless Congress acts.