The Angler in the Environment: Social, Economic, Biological, and Ethical Dimensions

Marine Recreational Fishermen and Oceans Governance

J. Michael Nussman, Gilbert C. Radonski, and Andrew J. Loftus


Abstract .—The development and implementation of marine protected areas (MPA) has become a perplexing issue for the marine recreational fishing community. While recreational fishermen, and the industry that serves them, have a strong historic record of fostering conservation and environmental issues to ensure the long-term stability of the fishery resource, as a community they are confused with the recent spate of state and federal no-fishing zones in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, and Pacific Ocean, created under the banner of MPAs. The actions are interpreted by many in the marine recreational fishing community as arbitrary measures that result in denying recreational fishermen access to marine fishery resources. Marine protected areas are increasingly seen as rekindling of the historic debate of the definition and application of conservation: sustainable use versus protectionism. The marine recreational fishing community generally supports the ecosystem-based management inherent in the MPA movement but views with great skepticism the arbitrary application of no-take zones as manifestation of protectionist conservation. The recreational fishing community aligns with the sustainable-use conservation paradigm. There is ample analogous history of developing public policy for the protection of public lands. This paper explores the history of public protected lands. From conceptualization to legislation, regulations, and implementation, public land policy has resulted in a vast infrastructure that is regarded as a national treasure. It looks at the spectrum, spanning sustainable use to protectionism, and how these polar definitions have been successfully brought to compromise around the issue of access in the past.