Policy Watch

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries recently released a new strategic plan for the next five years to coincide with the National Marine Sanctuary System’s 2022 50th anniversary.

The final version of “Our Vision for America’s Treasured Ocean Places” was released on October 4, 2017. One of the objectives in this plan is to “further engage with recreational fishermen, together with state and federal fishery managers, to expand sustainable recreational activities in sanctuaries.”

October 2017 Recreational fishing-focused material from NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries team.

ASA is encouraged by the recent steps taken by NOAA Sanctuaries to be more embracing of recreational fishing, but recognizes there are several longstanding issues between our community and the agency over the extent to which recreational access is allowed based on sound fisheries science.

One common misconception, however, is that all sanctuaries are closed to fishing. In fact, most sanctuaries and sanctuary system waters are open to recreational fishing.

ASA will continue to work with NOAA Sanctuaries at the national level and regionally to ensure all management and policy decisions are based on sound science and recognizing the importance of recreational fishing to the nation.

What are National Marine Sanctuaries?

National Marine Sanctuaries are federally designated areas (by the President, Congress, and/or the Secretary of Commerce) within United States waters that “protect areas of the marine environment with special conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, cultural, archeological, scientific, educational, or aesthetic qualities.”

The goal of the sanctuary system is to protect these important natural and cultural places, while still allowing people to enjoy and use the ocean. NOAA manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and co-manages Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and Rose Atoll Marine National Monument.

Click here for their locations. Click here for what types of activities are permitted.

When the average angler hears the word “sanctuary,” they probably think that they can’t go fishing there, but that’s not always the case. Many sanctuaries allow recreational fishing. Much of the time, the extractive uses that are restricted or prohibited are oil, gas and mineral exploration and extraction.

The National Marine Sanctuary Act does not prohibit any type of use of ocean resources, but leaves that decision to the Secretary of Commerce. Through a public process, the Secretary is the one who determines which activities are allowed and what regulations apply to the activities.

For fact sheets on each of the sanctuaries, with information on what activities are allowed, visit the Marine Conservation Institute website here.

For more information, please contact Policy Fellow Ashley Brinkman.