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American Sportfishing Association Testifies on Fisheries Data Modernization

American Sportfishing Association
Today, Martha Guyas, Southeast Fisheries Policy Director at ASA, testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries on the importance of accurate data in marine fisheries management.

Too often, federal fisheries stock assessments have high levels of uncertainty due to unreliable or sparse fishery data, particularly inaccurate recreational catch and effort data. The Fisheries Data Modernization and Accuracy Act of 2024 (H.R. 8705), introduced by Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), aims to address this issue and improve confidence in the scientific information used for fisheries management.

"The uncertainty caused by the use of questionable fishery data to inform the status of fisheries and make management decisions can have severe implications for fish stocks, anglers, businesses, communities and the economy," said Guyas. "ASA commends Congressman Graves for introducing this legislation and helping to improve confidence in the scientific information used for fisheries management."

Specifically, this bill proposes to advance reforms of the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) ( [log in for link] ) for better management through improved data collection. MRIP has long faced criticism for producing inaccurate estimates of recreational catch and a recent NOAA pilot study indicates MRIP may be overestimating recreational fishing effort for fisheries by 30-40%.

H.R. 8705 would convene a National Academies panel of experts to consider options for improving MRIP estimates for seasonal fisheries that have a high potential for statistical errors. In cases where increasing the precision of estimates is not practicable, the committee would consider options for adjusting management while adhering to the management and conservation requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Building off of state-led data collection programs already in place in the Gulf of Mexico and west coast states, the bill would also facilitate development and enhancement of state-led data collection programs to further promote improvements to recreational fishing data. Universal standards set by NOAA would ensure the programs are useful for management while allowing flexibility to account for differences in recreational fishing activity among states.

Lastly, H.R. 8705 would encourage coordinated planning of stock assessments for priority species and facilitate third-party abundance surveys of federally managed fish stocks.

"Recreational fishing activity supports the economy, connects people to the outdoors and provides substantial funding for conservation" adds Guyas. "Through fishing license purchases, excise taxes and direct donations, recreational anglers and the sportfishing industry contribute approximately $1.7 billion toward aquatic resource conservation each year. These conservation benefits, plus the $148 billion economic impact of the industry, all rely on accurate data and effective management."

Today's hearing also included discussions on H.R. 6841, H.R. 7925 and H.R. 8704. ASA supports all of these bills.

A full recording of today's hearing can be found on the House Natural Resources Committee's YouTube Channel.

Photo: NOAA Fisheries