My business, Watch Hill Outfitters of Westerly, is reliant on angler access to the shore, an abundance of fish in the water for them to catch and healthy habitat for fish to spawn and grow.
Climate change impacts are having a big effect on the shoreline, fish habitat, and the fish we love to catch, eat and/or release. Climate impacts I see include coastal erosion, habitat degradation, flooding of coastal communities along with fish and bait movement associated with warming water.
Earlier this year, an usually high tide right behind our shop on Main Street flooded our property. It’s just another sign of what is to come as sea levels rise.
Last month, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, chaired by Rep. Jared Huffman (Calif.—2nd District), examined the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act, authored by Reps. Huffman and Ed Case (Hawaii—1st District). The legislation aims to update and reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the primary law governing federal fisheries management and conservation. The bill has the climate-ready provisions we need to protect our fisheries and is moving forward in Congress.
As an active angler and tackle shop owner, I support this legislation as it recommits our nation to sustainable management and readies our fisheries for the impacts of climate change.
There are two bill provisions in particular that have won my support.
First, protecting forage fish, a food source for many of the species we love to catch and eat, is extremely important. The bill requires the consideration of predator needs in fishery management plans, such as considering the relationship of Atlantic menhaden as a forage fish for whales, tuna, bluefish, striped bass, osprey and other species. Other examples in our area include how an abundance of forage fish such as peanut bunker (immature Atlantic menhaden), squid, bay anchovies and sand eels create an outstanding striped bass, bluefish and tuna bite in Westerly and along our ocean coastline.
Second, by incorporating climate considerations throughout the management process, the bill enhances climate science and data so fishery managers can address shifting stocks due to warming water. For example, black sea bass continue to move north into our region as a result of warming water, and there’s a need to account for these changes in management. Shifting stocks due to warming water should not deter stock-rebuilding efforts. We need to both address climate impacts in the MSA and bolster stock rebuilding in the law.
I urge anglers, recreational industry businesses and all of Congress to support this legislation. It addresses angler needs today and in the future.