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The State of Our Fishing Waters Media Summit

Last week, I traveled to Galveston, Texas for a media summit sponsored by the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Ocean Conservancy, Trout Unlimited and The Boat Company. We had the opportunity to enjoy the marvelous hospitality of the Moody Gardens Hotel and Resort.

The purpose of this event was to educate and inform a select group of prominent outdoor communicators about the challenges facing fish, fishing and aquatic habitat from our headwaters to the ocean.

Water is the currency of the environment, and within it lays the resources required not only for great fishing, but for life on the planet. Significant changes are occurring to our waters thanks to climatic alterations, pollution and “progress,” and unless we address the health of our waters, from the cold, clear headwaters on America’s public lands to the deep blue water of the sea, our fish—and our fishing—will suffer, along with the economies and the communities that depend on functional rivers, intact headwater habitat and healthy oceans for their long-term success.

OWAA members who were at the summit included, Beau Beasely, Hal Herring, Chris Hunt, Katie McKalip, Jessica McGlothlin,  Kris Millgate, Brandon Shuler, Scott Willoughby, Charles Witek and myself.

As you will see below, it was diverse series of presentations, providing the attendees a number of options for articles. The mix of marine and terrestrial topics helped expose the communicators to water issues they might not otherwise have an opportunity to learn about.

Here are title and descriptions of the presentations. The presenters are in italics.
If you see a topic that interests you, let me know and I will be happy to connect you to the presenter.

Impact of hard-rock mining in Alaska—an update
Nelli Williams, Trout Unlimited
From the famed Bristol Bay to the iconic watersheds of Southeast Alaska, the threats from hard-rock mining are having a very real impact on the Last Frontier’s priceless salmon and inshore fisheries. Nelli Williams, director of TU’s Alaska Program will update communicators on the latest information facing the Bristol Bay watershed, and introduce new threats to rivers like the Stikine, the Taku, and the Unok from new mining operations high in the British Columbia mountains.

Abandoned mine cleanup: Why Good Samaritan legislation is needed to fix our headwaters
Steve Moyer, Vice President for Government Affairs, Trout Unlimited
In the West, more than 40 percent of our headwater streams are impacted in one fashion or another by abandoned mine runoff—the problem was aptly illustrated last summer when the Gold King Mine in southwest Colorado blew out and sent a plume of toxic, tailings-laden water down the Animas River, through the mountain town of Durango, Colo. This spill demonstrates a need for Good Samaritan legislation that will allow private organizations, agencies and individuals to clean up abandoned mines before more tragic events like this happen. In Washington, there is a real effort to move such legislation through that will allow groups like Trout Unlimited to tackle important cleanup work without having to worry about the liability associated with such work. Steve Moyer, TU’s vice president for government affairs and a member of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, will update journalists on D.C. progress for Good Sam legislation.

Sustainable management of the Gulf of Mexico’s vital fisheries
Jon Paul Brooker, Counsel to the Fish Conservation Program, Ocean Conservancy
This session provides an overview of the management regimes that have been successful in restoring the Gulf of Mexico’s most vital fish populations and those fisheries that still face challenges to obtaining or maintaining sustainable rebuilt status. What has worked in the Gulf; What still presents challenges; and what does the future of Gulf of Mexico fishery management look like?

The State of the Trout
Dr. Helen Neville, Director of Research, Trout Unlimited
Trout in the United States face an uncertain future thanks to myriad threats ranging from invasive species to water quality to warming waters. TU’s Director of Research Dr. Helen Neville will give a presentation on the State of the Trout report recently produced by TU and what is being done from coast to coast to protect and restore trout habitat for the benefit of all fish ranging from the headwaters of America’s great rivers all the way to the sea.

Recreational Data Collection: Challenges to Accountable Gulf of Mexico Fisheries
Todd Phillips, Fishery Monitoring Specialist, Ocean Conservancy
This session provides an overview of the current management and data assessment tools employed in the Gulf, from Texas’s Creel Net Survey to the Marine Resources Information Program. This session educates how these systems work-and do not work-together to inform the MRIP and how each can be bettered to work more seamlessly.

Snook & Gamefish Foundation: Angler Reported Data
Mike Readling, Board of Director Chairman , Snook & Gamefish Foundation
Chairman of the Snook and Gamefish Foundation Board discusses the challenges and outcomes of working with state and federal authorities to validate and accept angler-reported data from the organization’s iAngler and iTournament platforms. What are the paths forward and the solutions for recreational angler buy in? What are the challenges to using angler-reported data for validated stock assessments.

Keynote Speech: American public lands
Jim Caswell, former director of the Bureau of Land Management
American’s all share a common birthright—ownership in the vast federal estate through the agencies that manage it, like the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. In recent years, a concerted effort by dark-money funded groups and industry-backed bill mills has gained momentum, and several Western state legislatures are defying the wishes of the majority of voters and engaging the “public lands transfer” effort that, if successful, would remove ownership of American public lands from Americans and put them in the hands of states for proprietary management or liquidation. Polls and reports show that Americans value their public lands, the rights to fish, hunt, camp, hike, ride and otherwise recreate on them and the importance they play in the protection of clean water resources.

The Endangered Species Act
Gary Frazer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Endangered Species Act has been credited with successfully restoring vital fish and wildlife populations around the country over the last 43 years, largely because it addresses habitat issues and takes on the challenges of restoring fish, plants and wildlife from a habitat and watershed perspective. Keeping this act intact is vital to the future of America’s wild lands and fighting off efforts to further weaken it or restrict its use is important to the future of rare fish and wildlife species and the habitat needed to sustain and recover them.

The Tongass—America’s largest and fishiest national forest
Austin Williams, Alaska legal counsel, Trout Unlimited
The Tongass National Forest, situated in coastal southeast Alaska is a temperate rainforest that pulses with life, harboring everything from brown bears to moose to wolves… to runs of millions of all five species of Pacific salmon. Austin Williams will speak to the management of the Tongass and discuss vital watersheds that TU and others are working to protect from development in order to ensure that salmon, trout and char will be a part of the Tongass waterscape for generations to come.

Legislative Threats to the Gulf of Mexico
Jeff Watters, Director of Government Relations, Ocean Conservancy
Provides an overview of the legislative threats facing the Gulf of Mexico and its fishes, focusing primarily on the Vitter amendments and the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act. These bills and legislative actions threaten the integrity of the MSA. This session provides a situating primer for recreational media.

Sector Separation and Future Challenges for the Gulf of Mexico Charter For-Hire Fleet
Jeff Barger, Associate Director for Constituent Outreach, Ocean Conservancy and Shane Cantrell of the Charter Fisherman’s Association
Provides a history of the battle for sector separation, while highlighting its necessity to provide stability for the charter for-hire fleet business model and access for the non-boat owning American public. This session will also outline possible paths forward to protect the sanctity of the industry’s ability to operate.

Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization
Jeff Watters, Ocean Conservancy Government Relations Team
Jeff Watters will provide an overview of the ongoing attempts to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. He’ll discuss aspects of the reauthorization that need to be considered, and how the reauthorization will work within the current polarized state of U.S. politics. He’ll talk about the threats the reauthorization might face and the opportunities to make this cornerstone environmental law even better.

Klamath River Restoration—the largest in U.S. history
Brian Johnson, Trout Unlimited
The Klamath River that flows from Crater Lake in southern Oregon to the Pacific Ocean under the canopy of the redwood forest of northern California was once one of the West Coast’s most vibrant salmon and steelhead streams. In recent years it’s been more famous for fish kills and water wars. But an agreement that approves the largest river restoration effort ever attempted is under way, one that will include the removal of four dams and restore passage for salmon and steelhead to hundreds of river miles and an untold number of small creeks and streams that feed the river. Brian Johnson, director of TU’s California Program, will talk about the effort to bring the Klamath back to its once-lofty status as a West Coast salmon and steelhead fishery.

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