The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is asking for public comments on possible changes to fishing regulations for 2021.

Changes to general fishing rules, rules for commercial anglers and fish farms are all being evaluated before the Fisheries Division formally proposes them to the Commission in August. A survey will be available at agfc.com for the next 45 days to gather public input.

During the May 21 commission meeting, Ben Batten, chief of fisheries for the AGFC, said many proposed changes are the result of a continued effort to engage the public and modify fishing regulations to suit their preferences.

“During the year we get many suggestions for regulations changes from the public, whether it’s in-person to field staff, phone calls to the office, social media and emails to the website,” Batten said. “We do consider all requests, and have passed regulations in the past that were generated from the public, but they must be compatible with the natural resources as well as the majority of stakeholders involved to move forward.”

Batten said biologists also provide potential regulations changes based on biological sampling data, creel surveys and other tools to monitor a fishery’s productivity and potential.

“Biologists are monitoring our waters year-round, and when they see shortfalls or opportunities, they look to get feedback from the public on how some regulations may be received,” Batten said. “We work for the public, but our number one job is to maintain or benefit the resource on their behalf.”

Batten says an additional emphasis has been placed on simplifying and standardizing regulations where possible.

“Over the years, some regulations have become outdated or cumbersome for the public to understand,” Batten said. “We are really making an effort to clean up some of these areas in the code to make things a bit more straightforward.”

In addition to general fishing regulations and regulations pertaining to fishing on specific bodies of water, the AGFC’s Fisheries Division has done extensive work in updating and modifying commercial fishing regulations and regulations pertaining to aquaculture. While these regulations do not directly affect as many people as the general fishing regulations, they can have strong implications for the health of fisheries throughout the state and nation.

“This is the first comprehensive look we’ve taken into the regulations for the aquaculture industry since the 1980s, so those proposals are substantial,” Batten said. “We also are in need of cleaning up and simplifying some of the regulations for anglers using commercial fishing equipment. We’ve worked very hard through meetings, focus groups and surveys to find some of our problem areas in these regulations and have come up with some sound recommendations that will help get us up to speed on local trends among these industries.”

A survey to gather public opinion on proposed general fishing and commercial fishing proposals is available at agfc.com.