Q&A: Jeff Angers, Center for Coastal Conservation
Our April issue includes an in-depth look at the key governmental issues facing the boating industry. One of the biggest is water access. In this special online-only companion, we talked to Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, about its efforts to preserve saltwater resources.
Help our readers understand what exactly it is that the Center for Coastal Conservation does. What is it that you focus on?
We are focused on good stewardship of America’s marine resources and representing the recreational fishing and boating industry before the Congress and before the agencies. That entails a number of different issues, a number of different scientific disciplines, including political science.
How have you done that?
We have a political action committee so we can get engaged with the campaigns of the members of Congress that are friends to boating and friends to fishing.
What we’ve tried to do is unite the recreational fishing and boating industries, conservationists, private boat owners and recreational fishermen to speak with one voice in Washington.
We have a number of different assets in our space. Obviously, the largest nonprofit asset is NMMA, with a substantial staff of government affairs professionals working in Washington. Similarly, we’ve got a large group at the American Sportfishing Association and their Washington staff. [The Coastal Conservation Association] has lobbyists in Washington, as do many of the for-profit companies that we work with.
Being able to be the hub for the activity in the government affairs space and to coordinate everyone speaking with one voice has made a substantial difference. We’ve become the go-to group when people are interested in our community’s perspective on a number of issues. The seriousness of purpose these guys bring to the table puts us in a good place to have serious conversations with serious legislators who want to make a difference.
Magnuson-Stevens is up for reauthorization this year. What are you working on in that area?
We’ve got some very distinct ideas of how the act needs to be changed to accommodate the scientific mission of the National Marine Fisheries Service and to ensure that the agency is trying to shepherd rather than crush the fishing public.
We want to make certain that we see an end to overfishing and we want that to be based in science.
The 2006 reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens instructed the agency to set forth hard quotas, hard annual catch limits in every fishery in the country. The agency did not have enough data to come up with scientifically fact-based annual catch limits, but yet the agency has decided to interpret the law that whether or not they have this hard science they still need to set these hard quotas. We think that’s foolhardy.
When you set hard limits on the take of any particular species we think you ought to have the scientific basis to make informed decisions. We want to make sure the agency is not forced to make bad decisions.
Will the reauthorization take two months or two years? I kind of lean toward the latter because there are a lot of stakeholders here. We know that folks in the environmental community are deeply invested in some of the provisions of the act that, frankly, we want to change. Some of our friends in the commercial fishing industry are deeply invested in some of the provisions that we in the recreational industry are going to want to change. This is going to be a substantial negotiation with three sides of the table trying to work with the members of Congress to reach a good place where this reauthorization is going to be meaningful.
What do you see as some of the other top issues facing the industry?
Things like E15 … and issues like Everglades National Park and the draft management plan just published that proposes to set up a third of the park as a pole and troll zone. Biscayne National Park, where there’s this proposal to establish a huge no-fishing zone, as well as the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which has barred all RV access for a while. All of these are the types of regulatory issues that we’re engaged in.
It seems like we continue to see more limits to access. Is that a fair assessment?
Access is a problem in every corner of the country, and it is particularly a problem in our oceans and in the Gulf.
Access has got to be the No. 1 issue of all outdoorsmen. We believe that we are conserving America’s public resources so that they can be used by Americans. Fishermen and boaters are part of the original coalition of conservationists. We’ve been paying for conservation for decades with our license fees, with taxes on fuel, with excise taxes on tackle and equipment. That goes back into funding our fish and game agencies at the state level and the federal level.
There are people who think that America’s public resources should be conserved so no one can use them. We’re not those people. We want to better steward resources so our kids can enjoy them. There are people who want to turn America’s oceans into great big aquariums where you cannot go. And that’s not OK. That’s not OK to the businesses who employ the people who build the boats, that’s not OK to the moms and dads that want to take their kids fishing, that’s not OK to the broad variety of the hundreds of thousands of people that have jobs that are based on the outdoor economy.