Scott Deal, CEO and Founder of Maverick Boating Group, introduced Secretary Ross.
Thank you, Scott, for the kind introduction, and thank you for hosting us at this impressive new facility. When we met a few years ago, you insisted that the recreational sportfishing industry was a big and important driver of GDP throughout the country. And you were right.
Prior to the onslaught of COVID-19, the marine recreational fishing industry employed nearly half a million workers. And I’m certain we will return to that level of employment in short order.
You also pledged to build a new manufacturing plant if the Trump Administration were to finally lift the burden of undue regulations upon our anglers. We have done everything to hold to that promise, and I commend you for holding to yours. Thank you. It’s obvious that there were “no compromises,” and “no short cuts” in this new operation – complete with the American-made high-tech equipment we just saw demonstrated on our tour.
Thank you, also, to NMMA and the Center for Sportfishing Policy for bestowing the Jack Lawton, Jr., Conservation Award upon me at this month’s American Boating Congress. I truly cherish the honor.
As we are here in Florida, let me mention that I will be attending tomorrow’s scheduled launch of the SpaceX Delta 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. As we witness America’s return of manned space flight, it is an apt reflection of the values ingrained within our great nation: our commitment to hard work, innovation, and entrepreneurship. These apply to every industry, from commercial space to boat manufacturing. And as we carefully and safely reopen our economy, these attributes ─ admired worldwide ─ will drive a new era of economic growth and renewal. Your industry will benefit greatly as more people than ever before will want to be out on the water, enjoying the comradery.
Nonetheless, I know these are challenging times for everyone in this room, your employees, your customers, and your families. To deal with the COVID-19 emergency, the Administration acted swiftly with the CARES Act. Earlier this month, I announced $300 million in fishery relief funds to states, Tribes, and territories with coastal and marine fishery participants that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. I encourage you and your customers to work through your Fishery Management Commissions, states, Tribes, and territories to determine eligibility and to apply for these funds.
Healthy and abundant fish stocks drive your industry. We have heard your concerns, particularly on red snapper. We want to make sure there is a viable stock that can provide for many future years of enjoyment, for you, your children, and your grandchildren.
With that said, NOAA looked at the science and exercised discretion where appropriate. We think you will be pleased with the result when the South Atlantic red Snapper season is announced in the next week or so. I note that there will also be a new stock assessment in early 2021. We believe this assessment will show an improvement in the stock, and thereby allow a higher catch limit.
The proposed rule implementing fish descending device requirements in the South Atlantic is also in the final stages of clearance. To those who provided comments on this rulemaking, thank you for sharing your perspectives. This rule will improve the survivability of caught-and-released fish. And it is a good step forward for this important fishery. And while it’s unclear what impact, if any, it will have in this calendar year, it should lead to significant increases in catch limits in the future.
Finally, in June, we are considering appointments to the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils. Maintaining a fair and balanced representation of commercial and recreational individuals on these Councils is a top priority. If you have letters of support for any individuals that are being considered, I encourage you to share them with my staff.
Today, I want to hear from you on how we can work together to improve the fortunes of your companies, your workers, your communities, and the health of our fisheries. Thank you, again, for the great tour and for organizing this important discussion.