Q&A From Keep America Fishing Brings Answers from Presidential Candidates

We asked. They answered. You decide.

Dear KeepAmericaFishing™ Members,

You rarely hear the presidential candidates speak to recreational fishing while on the campaign trail so to provide insight into each of the candidate’s views on issues important to you, we asked each candidate eight questions.

At KeepAmericaFishing, we want our nation’s anglers – such as you – to be informed, united with one voice and participating in the issues that concern recreational fishing both locally and nationally. We hope the responses provide you some insight about the candidates’ views on issues that impact recreational fishing and give you a basis to judge which candidate best serves the interests of you, the angler.

We encourage you to both vote on November 6 and continue to voice your viewpoint to policy makers on recreational fishing issues through KeepAmericaFishing.

Gordon Robertson

1. Recreational anglers in America are always curious to know if their leaders are also recreational anglers. Please, tell our members about your angling experiences.

President Barack Obama

Although I grew up fishing with my friends and grandfather in Hawaii, I am not an avid sportsman and do not claim to be. I do, however, understand the importance of our nation’s outdoor heritage and the key role that sportsmen play in the conservation of our natural resources. On the campaign trail in ’08 I had the opportunity to spend some time in Montana and decided that, win or lose, I would go back there and learn to fly fish. After taking office, I was fortunate enough to return to the state and fish the East Gallatin River. Despite having excellent guides and getting a few bites, the weather was tough that day and I didn’t land a fish. I really enjoyed the challenge of fly fishing and I’m looking forward to doing it more. I want to try for trout again but would also like to try saltwater and maybe catch a tarpon.

Governor Mitt Romney

Growing up in Michigan, fishing was a prominent pastime in the area, and I truly understand the valuable role recreational fishermen play both in our economy and our environment. As a boy, I fished with my dad, and in recent years, I went fishing in Alaska with my son, Matt. Though my schedule makes these types of trips rarer than I would like, I realize that fishing is one of America’s great opportunities to connect with family, friends, and nature. As president, those in my administration will work with fishermen to protect this great American heritage.

I gained a better understanding of the concerns and motivations of fishermen as governor of a coastal state. In Massachusetts, I was able to work with both commercial and recreational fisherman to ensure that our state’s policies met their needs and that my administration understood their concerns. As president, I will draw on these personal and professional experiences to advocate for America’s fishing community.

2. What do you believe are some of the leading threats to our nation’s fisheries and recreational fishing itself?

President Barack Obama

The best things that we can do to overcome todays leading threats and ensure the long-term health of ocean fisheries and other marine life is to find solutions that can allow anglers to have longer and more predictable seasons. Management based on sound science is the best way to strike a balance between those who rely on our fishery resources today and those who will use them tomorrow. In order to achieve this balance, we are assessing fish stocks more frequently, consulting more closely with fisherman and other local experts, and getting more accurate counts as a result.

My administration is also working with recreational fishing organizations, the country’s leading fishery scientists and state agencies on a bottom up approach to conserving our fisheries. Through FishSmart, we are helping recreational anglers do what they’ve always been willing to do: adjust their fishing techniques and equipment to conserve fish for the well being of their sport and oceans.

We are also investing in more assessments – boosting funding over the past three years – so we have the most accurate data possible on the health of our fisheries. In doing so, we are working with partners across the country, bringing saltwater anglers into the process of counting the fish in our oceans to contribute to the science that builds our policies.

Governor Mitt Romney

The state of our economy is a very serious threat to our nation’s fisheries and recreational fishing. Right now fishermen are concerned about how to pay their bills and what the future will hold for them and their families. The comfort of being out on the water is a little less relaxing for recreational fishermen when they are worried about the price at the pump. Fuel prices are a serious concern for not only recreational fishermen, but commercial fishermen who see their profits declining and their fuel cost rising. As president, I will invest in our domestic energy resources to make North America energy independent by 2020.

Lastly, the Obama Administration’s policies should concern fishermen, specifically their heavy handed, Washington knows best approach. As president, I will take a different approach. If there is no strong biological reason to limit fishing for the purpose of protecting fish populations, I will always stand with American anglers who have been the back bone of watershed and fisheries protection.

3. The user-pay model of fish and wildlife management in the United States is the envy of other nations that care about their natural resources. Tell KeepAmericaFishing members why it is especially important now and how you will support the model and perhaps make it better?

President Barack Obama

America’s sportsmen are part of a unique tradition of fish and wildlife management that dates back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt. American anglers have always been willing to contribute their fair share to the conservation of the species and habitats they love. Since the inception of the Wallop-Breaux fund in 1984, anglers have been responsible for more than $2 billion in funds that have been allocated to the states for species and habitat management. With some members of Congress threatening to drastically cut conservation funding, the user-pay model is more important now than ever before. As a self-funded program, the user-pays conservation model should be protected from efforts to redirect the revenues.

Governor Mitt Romney

The user-pay model infuses hundreds of millions of dollars into the system to ensure that our waterways are clean and our fish are abundant, and this prioritization of America’s fisheries is incredibility important. However, a Romney Administration will also work to ensure that while our efforts for cleaner water and abundant fish continue, we decrease bureaucracy and inefficiency to ensure that your dollars are being better spent and waste is avoided.

4. A trend in recent years has been to close large areas of the ocean to all fishing, including recreational fishing. Please tell our members whether you support such closures and under what circumstances you would or would not?

President Barack Obama

My administration is working to responsibly manage our nation’s oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes to ensure that fishermen can access the local waters they care most about and that those waters support healthy, vibrant populations of fish. I have established a National Ocean Policy to ensure a proactive approach to improving the conservation of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. We are developing regional plans that bring the states together with regional stakeholders to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy these shared resources and that residents in each region can tailor management to suit their local needs. This policy cuts away red tape and redundancy to best serve the local communities that depend on our oceans and waters.

My administration has worked closely with recreational fishing and hunting groups. Our efforts have engaged these communities to provide advice on recreational issues in numerous ways, including through the Sportfishing and Boating Partnership Council, the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation, and the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council. Throughout the past three years, we’ve been working with these partners and others to protect and even expand access for sportsmen. While I strongly believe that we need to keep all of our options for fisheries restoration open, I also believe that the public’s interest in having access to its natural resources is of great importance.

Governor Mitt Romney

I agree that it is important to prevent overfishing; however, I will only support these decisions when they are based on sound science and local input from stakeholders. This information should be up to date and accurately reflect the condition of the waters. Our fisheries are incredibly important to preserve and maintain, but we must make fully informed decisions when closing large areas of the ocean. I will not close access to fishing except in a case of last resort to protect the productivity of a fishery, certainly not to appease special interests. This hurts the local economies for no reason.

5. A most egregious case of a heavy-handed federal government action is the closure of beaches to fishing and other recreational activities at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area in North Carolina. These closures extend far beyond common sense and what is needed for resource protection, and as a result are devastating a community that depends on tourism generated by public access. Anglers fear that the same approach is about to be used in Biscayne National Park in Florida. If (re) elected as President, how will you prevent these types of over-reach by the federal government?

President Barack Obama

My administration is committed to maintaining fishing opportunities for America’s fishermen. That is why the Cape Hatteras National Seashore remains open to fishing. As a result of an extensive public process, some restrictions on Off-Road Vehicle Use in the Seashore have been implemented to protect endangered species. The Park Service plan attempts to strike a balance between numerous uses of the seashore, as required by law. Even with those restrictions, fishing tournaments that existed before 2009 are grandfathered in, and fishermen participating in those tournaments will still be allowed to access the Seashore with ORVs. To date, tourism revenues in Dare County, where the Seashore is located, have held steady or increased. If re-elected, my administration will continue to look for ways to maintain or increase fishing opportunities for recreational fishermen.

Governor Mitt Romney

As president, I will take a very different approach to resource protection than President Obama. His policies have been crafted with great input from D.C. bureaucrats and with very little say from local and states agencies and the fishermen who know the waters best. A Romney Administration will highly value the input of these local entities, understanding the integral part they play in keeping our waters clean and our fish supply abundant. No one wants our resources protected more than the anglers themselves. I understand this and will make decision that lean heavily on input from those on the ground.

6. Invasive species pose a significant threat to many of our nation’s waterways, including the Great Lakes where Asian carp are right on the doorstep and threatening the region’s $7 billion sportfishing economy. What will you do to control the introduction and spread of harmful invasive species?

President Barack Obama

My Administration has taken an aggressive, unprecedented approach to protect our Great Lakes and the communities and economies that depend on them from the threat of Asian carp. We are working to maintain this ecosystem, which represents the nation’s largest source of fresh surface water and is a cornerstone of local jobs and the regional economy.

We kicked off the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades, which is targeting ecological problems such as invasive species, toxic hot spots, polluted runoff from farms and cities and declining wildlife habitat.

We are working tirelessly on an unprecedented effort to halt the spread of Asian carp, which are threatening the Great Lakes ecosystem. We have launched multiple efforts to encourage state, local and federal authorities to coordinate in their efforts to mitigate the spread of Asian Carp, while deploying enhanced, more efficient systems to monitor and capture Asian carp, including undertaking extensive testing to determine whether the destructive fish have established a foothold in the lakes. My administration has also enhanced the fish barrier system to include strengthened electric barriers, physical barricades to stop carp migration during floods, and closed off smaller waterway connections to the Great Lakes. And in May, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would accelerate its planning process and develop options for permanent fixes for presentation to Congress in 2013 – 2 years ahead of its previous schedule.

Governor Mitt Romney

The Great Lakes have literally shaped my home state and are an important part of my personal history. I am deeply concerned about the threat posed to the Lakes by invasive species from the Mississippi River basin, and I am outraged that five years after Congress ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to identify a solution that we are still years away from a recommendation. America put a man on the moon in less time than that. As president, I will accelerate the Army Corps process and ensure that they develop a plan as soon as possible to protect both the ecology and economy of the region. By taking immediate action to address this threat, while also continuing with restoration efforts, we can meet our obligation to the future generations for whom we hold this magnificent fresh water resource in trust.

7. Recreational fishing has a $125 billion economic impact on the Nation each year and supports over a million jobs. As a President, what are the three most important things you can do for recreational fishing in America?

President Barack Obama

I am committed to ensuring that our nation’s vast natural resources are used responsibly, and that we maintain healthy oceans and coasts. We have created or enhanced more than 540 public coastal recreation areas, protected more than 54,000 acres of coastlines and restored over 5,200 acres of coastal habitat. And we are working to ensure the integrity of the waters Americans rely on every day for drinking, swimming and fishing, by supporting initiatives that restore our rivers and watersheds. Over the next four years, I will continue this important work, specifically:

  • Ensuring recreational anglers have a voice. We know that sportsmen have always been some of the strongest advocates for conservation, and recreational fishermen will always have a seat at the table in my administration. We will also continue working with recreational fishing organizations, the country’s leading fishery scientists and state agencies on a bottom up approach to data collection and conserving our fisheries.
  • Continuing to pursue strategies that encourage conservation of our national lands and waters. We are taking important steps to restore treasured landscapes that support recreation across the country. We kicked off the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades, are cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, establishing a “pollution diet” for the Bay that will help restore the natural habitat for fish and other wildlife in Maryland and Virginia, and directing additional funding to Gulf Coast restoration to ensure the long-term health of the fisheries and coastal ecosystems which are still recovering in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill.
  • Prioritizing wise investments in science and management initiatives that result in more accurate assessments of the state of our fish stocks, and ultimately lead to more fishing opportunities. I will encourage the rapid transition of data to policy, and a balanced approach that permits adequate access to fishing.

Governor Mitt Romney

First, I will work to get this economy back on track so that Americans can enjoy the pastimes they love. Secondly, I will work to make government smaller, simpler, and smarter and to turn back the regulatory tide of the Obama Administration that has created red tape first and ignored your input. I realize that recreational angling can be an incredible economic engine, but it is being shackled by misguided, over-reaching regulations that make little economic or conservation sense. Lastly, I would consider individuals for my administration that share my vision for a more prosperous America that protects and understands our national traditions and values. My administration will focus on bringing a new philosophy into fisheries management that will put the focus back on commonsense regulations that can protect and rebuild fisheries when necessary, but will also allow anglers greater access to healthy marine resources.

8. Question specific to their term of office (see below).

President Barack Obama

As President you initiated a new national ocean policy that anglers fear poses serious questions about the future of recreational access to our nation’s waters. In your second term what plans do you have for that policy initiative, and can you provide assurance that large areas of public waters will not be unnecessarily closed through this policy?

There has been a lot of talk surrounding the National Ocean Policy, so let me set the record straight: the new policy in no way restricts any ocean, coastal, or Great Lakes activity. By establishing a National Ocean Policy, I made it a priority of the federal government to ensure a proactive approach to improving the conservation of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. We are developing regional plans that bring the states together with regional stakeholders to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy this shared resource and residents in each region can tailor its management to suit their local needs. This policy cuts away red tape and redundancy to best serve the local communities that depend on our oceans and waters.

Some claim that this kind of planning is intended to deprive fishermen of access to our ocean waters. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, our goal is to allow all users of the ocean – including recreational fishermen – have a voice in how our ocean waters are managed.

Recreational fishermen have an important role to play in this policy, and we have gone to great lengths to ensure their voices are heard as part of the process. The sportfishing community reached out to during the initial planning process. We’ve asked each region to bring fishermen into the decision making process to create more opportunities for sports fishermen to share what works for them in the parts of the coast they know best.

Governor Mitt Romney

When you were Governor of Massachusetts you proposed diverting hunting and fishing license fees to other programs, then reconsidered after anglers and hunters and angler/hunter groups expressed opposition. Why did you make that proposal and what did you learn from the experience that caused you to withdraw it?

When I was elected governor of Massachusetts there was a $3 million budget deficit, and I went to work examining every agency and program to close that gap. I was determined to get my state back on strong fiscal footing. I reconsidered the decision to divert license fees after I received input from local stakeholders, both anglers and others, who expressed to me why this decision should be reconsidered. Once I understood what this diversion of funds will do, I reversed course and found another way to leave my state with a $2 million rainy day fund when I left office. This is the same attitude I will bring to the presidency. I have a plan to get this economy back on track, but I also understand the importance of hearing out state and local agencies and fishermen themselves when these types of decisions are made.