The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) has organized work on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) energy development under its Angling 4 Oceans coalition, which is composed of representatives of the nation’s leading recreational angling organizations and associations. This working group has compiled recommendations concerning federal management of energy development on public waters known as the CAST principles – guiding principles that must be followed for energy development that takes place on the outer Continental Shelf.
The “CAST Principles” are as follows:
Conservation concerns must be a top priority. A network of conservation areas – places simply too valuable to drill – must be identified before offshore energy leasing and development proceed. Those places crucial to the vitality of fish populations, recreational anglers and coastal economies should be placed off-limits to leasing. Concurrently, the Minerals Management Service, the agency responsible for overseeing offshore development, must adopt and adhere to a new standard operating procedure that strives to balance the concerns of all ocean users.
Some places along America’s coasts are so valuable to recreational anglers and the fish they pursue, that they should not be developed.
Due to the intricacies and connectivity of the marine environment, there will be no such thing as only local impacts of offshore energy development. The effects of development throughout the ecosystem must be determined through research.
Marine stocks depend on various habitats throughout their life cycles. This must be remembered when assessing which ‘special places’ to avoid developing. Crucial habitat is as important as fishing hotspots.
In the face of declining access, recreational anglers want to keep existing, quality areas free from harmful development.
Allocations of the royalties paid to the federal government by industry for offshore energy development must be used in ways that benefit fish and wildlife resources, including expanded marine research and fisheries management initiatives, via state and federal programs.
Federal royalties collected from offshore energy development should include a trust fund for ocean conservation.
Part of this trust fund should be a dedicated Fish and Wildlife Sustainability Fund, used specifically for funding fish and wildlife management.
An allocation from this sustainability fund should be a placeholder for federal fisheries management science to conduct marine research, including improved recreational fishing data and stock assessment data, and to conserve marine and coastal habitats.
For too long, state fish and wildlife agencies have faced declining revenues from hunting and fishing license purchases. The Fish and Wildlife Sustainability Fund should include an allocation to state fish and wildlife agencies to ensure that they are able to carry on performing vital on the ground fish and wildlife conservation. Existing tools, such as State Wildlife Action Plans, will enable the states to “hit the ground running.”
Science-based, adaptive management strategies that respond continually to emerging information should be required for all offshore energy development projects. These strategies should begin with species inventory, include population monitoring and analysis, and carry through to the mitigation phase. Where gaps in data exist, they must not be used to justify development. Rather, they must serve to highlight areas where additional study is immediately necessary.
Because so much is unknown about the ocean environment and many of the species saltwater anglers pursue, there is an amazing need for better data concerning coastal and marine fisheries stocks.
Before any new development begins, fisheries managers need a reliable assessment of potential impacts of proposed development, remembering that conservation of our ecosystems must come first and that the first goal of new energy development must be to do no harm.
Fisheries managers should determine which stocks still have no identified crucial habitat and every effort must be made to identify these habitats so that energy development does not harmfully impact these stocks. Lack of knowledge is an unacceptable reason for allowing fisheries resources to be depleted.
Recreational anglers have seen stock declines among some of their favorite game fish due to lack of oversight in the past, so there must be a firm commitment to stringent and specific monitoring and evaluation to ensure that energy development is not adversely impacting fisheries and ecosystems.
Transparency must characterize the management of all public trust resources. Not only does this mean that the decisions affecting our shared aquatic species must be made in a manner that allows public oversight; it also means that public comment must be addressed and integrated during the decision-making process.
Management of public trust resources only works if the public trusts the management process.
Sportsmen know from experience that laws and rules made behind closed doors are almost always bad for the resources they treasure.
The public will have to participate through a variety of venues of transparent rule-making before it agrees to a plan for offshore energy development.
Failing to involve fishermen in the process is not an option