POLICY COLUMN: Future of Our Nation’s Aquatic Resources: Recommendations for the Next Administration

AFS Policy Analyst Taylor Pool

AFS Policy Analyst Taylor Pool

Every four to eight years (more often eight), an opportunity arises for a change in the U.S. presidential administration. This “changing of the guard” is not only a fantastic display of American democracy in action but is also a great opportunity to either capitalize on the progress that has been made within the previous administration or to close gaps and address shortfalls that were left behind. The upcoming election in November presents a unique opportunity for the aquatic resources community to come together and present a set of thoughtfully developed recommendations that the next administration can use to conserve, enhance, and manage the nation’s aquatic resources and systems, both freshwater and marine.

Throughout our history, AFS has been working cooperatively with federal agencies to inform decision makers and the public on best practices, using the best available social and natural science, to conserve the nation’s fisheries. Similarly, over the past couple of decades, consensus building efforts have addressed challenges within fisheries conservation. However, there is a missing component between building consensus and education/outreach, and that is formulating actionable recommendations. AFS intends to capitalize on the upcoming election by creating a set of actionable recommendations that the new administration, whoever that may be, can use to conserve aquatic systems throughout the country.

Other organizations, such as the American Wildlife Conservation Partnership and the American Geosciences Institute, have produced similar documents in anticipation of the November elections; however, AFS is unaware of any organization that has focused solely on aquatic resources and produced a set of recommendations that were brought about through a collaborative and open process.

Our first collaborative strategy meeting was held on February 9 and included 15 aquatic resource specialists representing state and federal interests, environmental groups, as well as industry associations. The meeting yielded some significant ideas on the process for formulating these recommendations, along with some specific content recommendations. In terms of the process and framework of the recommendations, meeting participants suggested determining who the exact audience would be, along with what format they will be presented in; that is, congressional recommendations, candidate recommendations, or agency recommendations.

In terms of specific content, meeting participants provided comments and suggestions on a wide variety of issue topic areas, including climate change impacts on both freshwater and marine ecosystems; ecosystem-based management of fisheries and aquatic systems, including forage fish management; funding of conservation programs and the possibility of involving public–private partnerships; illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; coral reef management; energy development; federal and state coordination; water quantity and quality; and public access issues, among many others.

The February collaborative strategy meeting was only the beginning of this process. Since then, the AFS Policy Team has attended conferences, hosted meetings, and actively collected comments and suggestions from various audiences. These comments and suggestions are contributing to our efforts to facilitate the compilation of recommendations for fisheries management and fisheries-related issues. As previously noted, the formulation of these recommendations will be entirely collaborative and will be presented as such. AFS looks to be the convening body during the initial phase of this process, with other organizations taking leading roles as the document is developed. We firmly believe that the greatest impact will come from a group voice.

The time frame for this project will be over the course of the next six or seven months, culminating before the presidential election in November. AFS’s Policy Team has been gathering suggestions and comments on topics and specific issues since February, continuing through mid-summer. Drafting recommendations started in late spring, with a complete draft to be presented at the AFS Annual Meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, in August. After the draft is presented, AFS will solicit more comments on what may have been missed or what else should be included within the recommendations, along with the appropriate format. Final presentations will begin in early fall, with final production set for late October/early November.

If you, your organization, or a representative from your organization would like to participate in this effort, please contact me via e-mail at [email protected] or via phone at 301-897-8616 ext. 202. Or please attend a discussion event at any of the meetings listed below:

  • May 2–5: Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Spring Meeting, Alexandria, Virginia
  • June 29: National Fish Habitat Partnership Board Conference Call, remote
  • August 21–25: AFS Annual Meeting, Kansas City, Missouri

AFS is firmly committed to presenting these recommendations, but it cannot and should not proceed alone. We need to have active involvement from a wide variety of participants. So, please, submit comments or attend a discussion meeting and consider having your organization take an active role within this project. Together, we will make a difference!

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