Obama White House responds to ESPN allegations

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A blog posted on ESPN Outdoors has grabbed the attention of the fishing community - and the White House. In it, conservation writer Robert Montgomery discussed the actions of President Obama's Ocean Policy Task Force and their perceived threat to recreational fishing. ESPN officials later distanced themselves from Montgomery's column.

On Wednesday, the White House Council on Environmental Quality sent out a position paper clarifying the Obama administration's stance on the task Force and recreational fishing in general - their comments are below.

The newly appointed Assistant Administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service, Eric Schwaab, also had comments, included below.

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Rhetoric vs. Reality
The Ocean Policy Task Force
March 10, 2010

They say that the Obama Administration will accept no more public input.

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The Task Force did not cut off public comment.

The Task Force's Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning was open for

public comment for 60 days, from December 14, 2009 through February 12, 2010.

The public comment period was publicly announced and well known.

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They say the Obama Administration has not listened to the views of the recreational fishing

community, and that public input into the process was a charade from the beginning.

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The Task Force and CEQ ensured extensive opportunity to hear the views of the recreational fishing

community.

On behalf of the Task Force, CEQ met with more than 20 prominent recreational fishing and boating

groups from around the country, many on several occasions. (See below for a list of these meetings).

CEQ hosted 38 expert roundtables to receive input from key stakeholder communities, including with the

recreational fishing community. The Task Force also heard from recreational interests at six regional

public meetings it held around the country. In addition, the Task Force received and reviewed close to

five thousand written comments, many from the recreational fishing community.

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They say that the President has already approved an Executive Order to implement the

recommendations of the Ocean Policy Task Force.

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The President has not approved an Executive Order. In fact, he has not even received the final Task

Force recommendations. When he does, it will be up to the President whether, when, and how he will

adopt the final recommendations.

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They say the Task Force fails to recognize the importance of recreational fishing and its contribution

to the Nation.

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The Task Force sincerely appreciates the conservation activities of recreational users, who have a long

history of actively participating in the stewardship of the ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources. The

Task Force strongly believes in the ability of recreational fishermen and women to continue to enjoy these

activities, which are critical to the economic, social, and cultural fabric of our country.

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They say that the National Policy and coastal and marine spatial planning will restrict access for

recreational fishers.

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Nowhere in the President's June 12, 2009 memorandum or in the Interim Report of the Ocean Policy

Task Force of September 10, 2009 or in the Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial

Planning report of December 9, 2009 does it state, suggest or even hint at regulating recreational fishing

or any other activity.

The Task Force draft reports are not map-drawing exercises, do not contain a zoning plan, and do not

establish any restrictions on recreational fishing or public access, nor make any judgments about whether

one ocean activity or use is better than another.

The Task Force is charged with recommending guidelines to promote collaborative, regionally-based

oceans planning across the U.S. - a goal that should be in line with the interests of all recreational users.

The process of developing coastal and marine spatial plans (CMS Plans) would take several years and

include extensive stakeholder and public participation.

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They say the Task Force has a pro-environment bias and neglects economic concerns

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The Task Force believes that economic growth and improved stewardship of the marine and Great Lakes

are inextricably linked, and this is reflected in its two draft reports. Ensuring healthier ocean, coasts, and

Great Lakes will benefit all recreational activities and the communities and economies that rely on them.

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Meetings with Recreational Fishing and Boating Groups

Stakeholder Roundtables and Attendees

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July 1, 2009

American Sportfishing Association, Ball Janik, LLP, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal

Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation

July 17, 2009

American Boat & Yacht Council, American Canoe Association, American Whitewater, Boat US, Marine

Retailers Association of America, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, National

Boating Federation, National Marine Manufacturers Association

United Catcher Boats, US Sailing

October 13, 2009

American Sportfishing Association, Ball Janik, LLP, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional

Sportsmen's Foundation, Recreational Fishing Association, International Game Fish Association, Dana

Warf Sportfishing, National Association of Charterboat Operators, Highly Migratory Species Advisory

Panel, Great Lakes Boating Federation

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Additional meetings with CEQ

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October 8, 2009

Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association,

National Marine Manufacturers Association, Bass/ESPN, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation

February 17, 2010

Center for Coastal Conservation, National Marine Manufacturing Association, American Sportfishing

Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation

February 17, 2010 - night

Billfish Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association, International

Game Fish Association, Blue Water Strategies, Center for Coastal Conservation

Statement from Eric Schwaab, NOAA's Assistant Administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service

The Ocean Policy Task Force has not recommended a ban on recreational fishing.

The draft reports by the Ocean Policy Task Force do not contain a zoning map and do not establish any restrictions on recreational fishing, nor make any judgments about whether one ocean activity or use is better than another. Instead, the reports set up a policy and framework for effectively managing the many sustainable uses of the ocean while upholding our responsibility to be stewards of our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.

As a member of the task force, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, has said, and I echo her on this, that saltwater recreational fishing is vital to this nation and NOAA is committed to building a strong partnership with America's saltwater anglers to ensure that Americans have opportunities to fish sustainably for generations to come.

Saltwater recreational fishing matters to me on a personal level as a recreational fisherman, it matters to millions of Americans who enjoy this great sport and it matters to our economy. Our most recent economic report shows it supports a half million jobs and generates $82 billion in sales each year.

NOAA is committed to adopting policies that will ensure that current and future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the great tradition of recreational fishing.