SEAGO Executive Director Samantha Weinstein and Board President Tom Ohaus, owner of Sitka-based Angling Unlimited, joined Andy Mezirow, Council member from Seward; Richard Yamada, charter operator from Juneau; and Dave Witherell, NPFMC Executive Director, in Washington, D.C., on March 28-29 for the Summit.  Speakers and attendees arrived from every coastal region of the United States, representing recreational anglers, charter operators, fishery managers, conservationists, and manufacturing industries.

The atmosphere at this Summit was wholly optimistic, from the tone of the speakers to story sharing during breaks, and it quickly became clear that the Administration recognizes the important contributions of our $63 billion (yes, with a B) industry. NOAA Assistant Administrator Chris Oliver opened and closed the event with speeches emphasizing the importance of recreational fisheries, both to himself and the Administration.  He expressed a need to spread the level of trust in science that he saw in Alaska, between scientists, managers, and the public, across the United States.  This enthusiasm was shared by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who spoke to Summit attendees on Thursday.  After an introduction by Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, Secretary Ross discussed the significant contribution of recreational fisheries to the United States economy.

Some attendees have been involved in, and frustrated by, fisheries politics for over four decades, and they were energized along with the rest of us by the elevated position of the recreational angling community on the national stage.  This energy created rapt audiences and full participation in the two-day discussion.  Economic contributions and innovative management approaches led the first day of the Summit.  Speakers covered the Alaska’s Recreational Quota Entity, alternatives to annual catch limits, efficient and real time data collection, and regional studies on the economic impacts of recreational fishing.  These ideas carried over into an afternoon breakout session, where Alaska and Pacific coast representatives brainstormed opportunities and challenges moving forward.   On day two, attendees discussed collaborative data collection, electronic reporting, and conservation.  Speakers and breakout groups were enthusiastic about using new technology to improve angling opportunities and stability for the fisheries – after all, we all have our smartphones in our pockets at all times!  Conservation ideas were not just a focus on day two, but were spread through every discussion, from quality data collection to habitat restoration to managing based on real-time abundance levels.

In addition to shared optimism for the community, perhaps the best outcome of the Summit were the connections we made and revived with folks from around the country.  Alaska is already well regarded for its innovative management and strong science, and these connections inspired new ideas and approaches for us to research for the future.  Check out some of them here:

NOAA is compiling the discussions and ideas generated into a full report and action items for the Administration, which we will share with you once it is released.