New GAO report shows significant data collection gaps affecting recreational fishing of red snapper, other fish
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, today sent a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Pritzker in response to the recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on Fisheries Data Collection. The report is the product of a 2013 bipartisan congressional request asking the GAO to study the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) marine recreational fisheries data collection program. The report concluded that NMFS lacks a comprehensive strategy and recommends that the agency develop such a plan with programmatic goals and time frames, and clearly communicate that information to stakeholders. In the letter, Rubio urges the secretary to fully support implementation of the GAO’s recommendations.
“NMFS must work diligently to rebuild trust with key stakeholders for more effective management of our nation’s fisheries,” Rubio wrote. “The importance of having these stakeholders as data collection partners cannot be overstated. Our fisheries support millions of jobs and are economically vital to coastal communities throughout the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. However, without effective and trustworthy data collection, these benefits will not be realized. A transparent, structured plan with established time frames is essential for a successful data program.”
Background: As Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, Rubio has detailed the need for improved quality and timeliness of data collection to ensure sound fisheries management. On May 20, 2015, he reintroduced the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act, which was reported out of the Senate’s commerce committee on June 25, 2015. If enacted, S. 1403 would:
Repeal separate catch quotas for the recreational and commercial red snapper fisheries;
Require both the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to review the allocation of fishing privileges;
Increase public involvement in the scientific and statistical processes that inform fishery management;
Allow fishery facilities to make use of capital construction funds;
Allow for more than 10 years of rebuilding for fish stocks managed under an international agreement;
Require a plan to conduct stock assessments for all stocks currently managed;
Require a report on better use of fisheries data; and
Speed up the timeline for fishery disaster declaration.
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Secretary Pritzker:
As the Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, I write to encourage you to direct the National Marine Fisheries Service to quickly implement the Government Accountability Office’s recent recommendations, as outlined in the report, “GAO-16-131, Recreational Fisheries Management: The National Marine Fisheries Service Should Develop a Comprehensive Strategy to Guide its Data Collection Efforts.”
The report stems from a 2013 bipartisan congressional request to examine current data collection practices used in determining stock assessments. Although the GAO report notes that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has taken steps to improve data collection for recreational fisheries, the report also states, “NMFS does not have a comprehensive strategy to guide the implementation of its various efforts… Moreover, without clearly communicating the strategy to its stakeholders, NMFS may find it difficult to build trust, potentially limiting its ability to effectively implement MRIP improvement initiatives that rely on data collection partners.”
As noted above, NMFS must work diligently to rebuild trust with key stakeholders for more effective management of our nation’s fisheries. The importance of having these stakeholders as data collection partners cannot be overstated. Our fisheries support millions of jobs and are economically vital to coastal communities throughout the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. However, without effective and trustworthy data collection, these benefits will not be realized. A transparent, structured plan with established time frames is essential for a successful data program.
As NMFS acknowledges the need to develop this important strategy, I urge you to use the necessary resources within the Department and NMFS to implement the recommended data collection efforts as soon as possible.
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