Recreational and commercial fishermen would indeed benefit from the National Ocean Policy. It would help us address all the factors that stand to jeopardize fish populations, from habitat destruction to water pollution. While ocean-use conflicts between industries like fishing and energy development continue to increase, the NOP will help us manage these conflicts by planning ahead to help keep, for example, energy plants off prime fishing grounds and unique habitat, so that all sectors can coexist. In fact, a recent Massachusetts case study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that planning ahead for ocean industry could generate more than $10 billion for the energy sector and prevent more than $1 million in losses to the fishery and whale watching sectors, compared to the status quo.
Let’s be clear. Comprehensive ocean planning isn’t a new idea, and it shouldn’t be a partisan issue. The idea of a National Ocean Policy was proposed by a 2004 commission, appointed by President George W. Bush. Fishermen have been involved in NOP discussions for years, with hundreds of recreational and commercial fishermen, and the organized sportfishing lobbies, issuing comments on the policy.
With the explosion of interest and money in offshore energy, such an Ocean Policy is simply a necessity if fishermen want to maintain access to historical fishing grounds. Fishermen have perhaps the most to lose if a minority in Congress succeed in defunding it. A healthy fishing industry depends on a National Ocean Policy. It will help us maintain access to historic fishing grounds, and address all those factors that harm commercial and recreational fishing, like habitat loss, coastal pollution and invasive species. Any attempts to defund or delay implementation of the National Ocean Policy are a dangerous political move that puts the health of our oceans, coastal communities, jobs and fishing industry at risk.
McMurray is a recreational fisherman and president of One More Cast Charters in Jamaica Bay, NY, and a Mid Atlantic Fishery Management council member.