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SHARING THIS AFTCO ARTICLE FOUND AT - we thank your efforts in our continued fight to protect our industry.

The Fishing Community Deserves A Voice

AFTCO applauds the spirit behind We Are One Ocean. We believe the World Surf League is trying to do what they feel is best for surfers. We also believe an essential voice is missing from this campaign. The We Are One Ocean campaign has not included one of the largest ocean stakeholder's - the fishing community - in their quest to improve our resources.

The fishing community understands that many surfers either fish themselves or at least enjoy sustainably caught seafood. That's why all of us at AFTCO were so surprised to see the WSL and its platform of 3.7 million Instagram followers get behind a very vague 30x30 petition. As a starting point, we urge anyone who defines themselves as a conservation-minded angler to continue reading before signing onto the current form of this petition.

30x30 appears to be coming to U.S. waters (30% of our waters protected by 2030). That 30% includes a growing push to add blanketed “no fishing” zones. A stated goal of those who support 30x30 is that "we must set a national goal of protecting and restoring 30 percent of our lands and ocean by 2030 to stem the collapse of our natural world." While we applaud conservation efforts and understand the need for biodiversity, we must also insist that U.S. anglers are included in this dialogue. With 46 million anglers in the U.S., we contribute over $48 billion into the economy and employ over 800,000 Americans. Our community has been working to protect our fisheries from the time we first picked up a rod and reel. It is imperative that the sport fishing community, as an influential member of the ocean community, is included in these conversations.

A Vague Petition. Why Is This a Problem?

After receiving initial backlash, the We Are One Ocean campaign has offered this further clarification:

“We Are One Ocean Supports the creation of Marine Protected Areas (also known as MPAs) that allow low impact fishing. The WSL is not associated with any specific legislation around 30x30 in California, Florida, the US, or in any other country.”

While a great start, this message remains overly vague. For example, does the We Are One Ocean campaign guarantee that your signature will only be used to influence potential legislation that is devoid of blanketed recreational fishing closures? If so, we request that the petition state as much. The fishing community has good reason to be skeptical. While the We Are One Ocean campaign wasn’t around to support prior blanketed fishing closures that banned both recreational fishing and sustainable rod and reel commercial harvest in key areas, current We Are One Ocean supporters that also supported California's now defeated AB3030 Bill include: Marine Conservation Institute, Patagonia, Plastic Pollution Coalition, and most notably the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC). This bill was opposed by recreational fishing groups like CCA California.

Additionally, anglers remain leery of the Surfrider Foundation after their very vocal support of MPA zones that include full fishing closures. During California's MLPA process, this type of public support ultimately lead to a ban on any kind of fishing at many of California's most utilized fishing spots. SMR zones that restrict all fishing currently make up 8.76% California's ocean. SMCA zones that may allow for recreational fishing but often only allow for very specific activities (seining for squid, or kelp harvest and spear fishing, or some sort of infrastructure maintenance) make up an additional 6.52% of California's oceans. A full breakdown of the MPA's covering ~ 16% of CA waters can be found here The result is that somewhere between 9% - 16% of California’s fishing waters by volume are currently placed in the category of recreationally fishing closures. In practice, the placement of California's Marine Protected Areas in the most productive inshore habitat zones has resulted in the closing of a very meaningful percentage of the real fishing opportunities available to the California public.

Surfriders endorsement of the WSL campaign can be found here and their support of setting "aside for full protection where fishing and the removal or disturbance of living and nonliving material is prohibited" remains intact. Going forward we encourage Surfrider to work with members of the fishing community to develop a more inclusive set of MPA policies.

Many of the approximately 46 million anglers in the U.S. use our saltwater resource. The question we must ask is why did the WSL leave out the voices of one of the largest users of the ocean resource?

Recommended Guidelines for We Are One Ocean in Their Approach To 30x30

Anglers are the original stewards of the seas. While our offshore fisheries remain challenged by foreign fleets (we agree with We Are One Ocean's goal to place focus on this area), the reality is that a vast majority of inshore saltwater species that can be managed in US waters are in better shape today than they were ten years ago. This is largely in thanks to the efforts of the recreational fishing community who contributes well over $1 billion dollars annually to the effort through licenses, permits, Sportfish Restoration Account funds and other fees.

When it comes to marine protected areas, the first question to ask is “What are we protecting this area from?” In some cases, it makes sense to protect an area from certain commercial activities. However, it is far more difficult to make a rational case that preventing a parent from taking their son or daughter recreational fishing is really going to protect much of anything. As a rule, we are not against protected areas when there is a real need for them. In fact, the sportfishing community is currently leading the effort in Florida to create a four-month closure and protected area at the Western Dry Rocks of Key West. This protection of 1.3-square-miles of reef will prevent all fishing—both recreational and commercial—during the spawning season. It represents a practical application of science over emotion.

Broad closures to recreational fishing access is not the answer. Instead, there are proven practical and successful resource solutions that fishery managers have had in place for years. These include size and catch limits, seasonal closures, and the elimination of destructive gear. Fish population successes from these management practices include white seabass and various bottom fish in California, redfish and red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, and striped bass on the East Coast.

We believe you can make your own assessment on supporting 30 by 30's overarching goals. However, if you decide to support a 30x30 initiative, we recommend you only support a 30x30 petition that specifically acknowledges current protected areas will count towards the 30%. In addition, any 30x30 guidance must also specifically define what is meant by a protected area, and only ban sportfishing if there is a real and defined scientific reason do so. Specifics on that should be defined in advance.

As AFTCO's chairman I spend much of my time working on fishing conservation and fishing rights issues. I encourage you to reach out to AFTCO at with any questions that myself or our team can help answer. - Bill Shedd

Take Action

  • Sign up to receive updates from Keep America Fishing - it's free! Their goal is to keep you informed.

  • We recommend you join the CCA through one of their local chapters.

Most coastal communities in the U.S. have an established CCA Chapter. Membership levels start at $35 annually and fund both conservation efforts (building of artificial reefs, hatchery efforts, etc.) and issues pertaining to fishing rights.

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