Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and senators from Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and North Carolina today sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office requesting a review of how the Department of Commerce conducts stock assessments in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. The stock assessments conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service are critical in maintaining the vitality of the fisheries, the fishing communities, and related industries in Florida and the region.
“Stock assessments are the foundation of sound fishery management,” said Rubio. “It is vital that, as we work to preserve the waters and resources surrounding Florida and other states, we base our management decisions on sound science. The report we’ve requested today will shed light on the decision-making process within the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and will help us to determine the best path forward so that we can ensure the economic livelihood of the fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic and the industries that depend on them.”
Rubio is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard. The letter is signed by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), David Vitter (R-LA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) and can be viewed by clicking here.
WHAT INDUSTRY EXPERTS ARE SAYING:
“Fishing organizations in the southeast, both commercial and recreational, salute Senator Marco Rubio for leading the effort to require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) to provide the basic science needed for honest stock assessments,” said Bob Jones, Executive Director of Southeastern Fisheries Association. “The numbers of fish calculated in the federal waters through stock assessments are critical in determining quotas, seasons, allowable gear, bycatch and all aspects pertaining to the commercial and recreational harvest of seafood. The fishing and tourism industry dependent on fresh local seafood thanks all the Senators who are working to improve the management of our sustainable marine resources.”
“As Chairman of the Data Collection Committee at the Gulf Council, I see first-hand how our lack of updated fisheries data strikes at the heart of our ability to make sound management decisions that protect both our natural resources AND our fishermen,” said Harlon Pearce, member of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council. “We need to get to the bottom of where our data collection resources are being spent and this full GAO investigation is a great step in the right direction.”
“Robust biological and socioeconomic data are critical to the management of our nation’s fisheries,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “Unfortunately this information has been lacking for many important fisheries, particularly those in the southeast. ASA is grateful that Senator Rubio understands the need for improved science to drive management and is working towards that end.”
“Sound science matters,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “Senator Rubio’s leadership brings focus to the critical need for science-based management of America’s marine fishery resources.”
FACTS ABOUT THE FISHING INDUSTRY:
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, nearly 40 million licensed anglers generate over $46 billion in retail sales with a $115 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for more than 828,000 people. (U.S. Census Bureau)
In 2009, the South Atlantic Region’s seafood industry generated $13 billion in sales impacts and 65,000 jobs in Florida, according to NOAA’s Fisheries 2009 Fisheries Economics Report. (NOAA)
In the Gulf of Mexico region, an average of 23 million fishing trips were taken annually from 2000 to 2009. (NOAA)
Over 42,000 full- and part-time jobs were generated by recreational fishing activities in Florida in 2009. (NOAA)