The Marine Resource Education Program Southeast: What Is It & Why Should You Attend

Fisheries management is hard. Management of fisheries in the United States dates back to the 1970s. The government realized they needed to come up with a way to manage fisheries within United States waters since other countries were entering local waters and exploiting various fish species. This culminated in the creation of the Fisheries Conservation Act of 1976. Later, this was replaced by the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996, and finally the current law called the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act of 2007. With each revision of fisheries management laws in the U.S., there are more defined guidelines and accountability measures to make sure fisheries in U.S. waters are sustainable. The U.S. is known for having some of the best managed fisheries in the world, and many other countries look to our laws and regulations as examples for best management practices. But being the best doesn’t mean that management is easy, or easy to understand, for the many stakeholders affected by fisheries management.

Understanding fisheries management and the laws that govern management can be difficult. Luckily, there is a program by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute that helps fisheries management stakeholders get a better idea of the science and management of fisheries in the U.S. The program is called the Marine Resource Education Program (MREP), and there is a specific format of the program geared towards management in the Southeast U.S.

The program is unique because it was created by fishermen for fishermen. It explains the fisheries science and management processes, goes over all the acronyms and vocabulary associated with fisheries management, and, most importantly, gives fishermen the tools they need to be better engaged in the fisheries management process. Fisheries management is one of the most transparent and engaging regulatory processes in the U.S. Stakeholders have many opportunities to engage in the process, and having a better understanding of that process gives stakeholders the power to be engaged. This program provides a neutral setting where stakeholders, and especially fishermen, can understand the “how” of the process, be able to meet the people who work in all levels of fisheries management, and share feedback.

There are two parts of the program. The first is a 3-day Fishery Science Workshop where participants learn about the fundamental science behind fishery management. The second is a 3-day Fishery Management Workshop where participants learn all the ins and outs of management, as well as the regulations that govern that management. The Management workshop specifically goes into the structure of the Fishery Management Councils with representatives from those councils attending and talking with participants during the workshop. The workshops are not only comprised of guest speakers with Q&A sessions, but there are also small group activities and many networking opportunities where participants, speakers, and MREP’s steering committee members have a chance to talk informally. This gives participants ample opportunity to learn from everyone participating in the program and to get their questions answered.

Since the program is created by fishermen for fishermen, it evolves every year. The steering committee uses the end of workshop evaluation to guide them on the format and presentations for future workshops. They even ask for quotes from attendees, which they use as a recruitment tool to get others to apply to attend the program. The word of mouth from past participants is a sure way to get others interested in the program. You do have to apply to attend, and fishermen get priority since this program is specifically created for them. Best of all, the program is FREE and participants get reimbursed for travel expenses. All you have to do is apply and commit to attending both workshops.

If you want to learn more, please contact me at habeels@ufl.edu or 321-633-1702. I’d be happy to tell you about my experience attending the program. You can also check out the following website to learn more: https://www.gmri.org/our-work/fisheries-convening/mrep-southeast.

 

Additional Resources:

NOAA Fisheries Laws and Policies, Magnuson-Stevens Act: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/laws-policies 

U.S. Leads in Global Fisheries Management: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/leadership-message/us-leads-global-fisheries-management

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council: http://safmc.net

Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council: http://gulfcouncil.org

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